Welcome to From Basin St. to Birdland

by mikeconklinmusic


Frankie Trumbauer

Before there was Coleman Hawkins, whom many consider to be the “Father of the Tenor Saxophone,” there was Frank Trumbauer.

Frank  Trumbauer (also known as Tram) was born on May 30, 1901 and was one of the leading jazz saxophonists of the 1920s and 1930s. He played the C-melody saxophone which, in size, is between an alto and tenor saxophone. After serving in the United States Navy during World War I, Frankie Trumbauer pursued a career as a musician, working first in local bands before moving to Chicago, one of the meccas of the early jazz scene. In 1925-6, he led a band with cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. The two ultimately established a close association where they worked together in orchestras led by Jean Goldkette and perhaps most notably, Paul Whiteman in 1927. Tram would subsequently procure his own recording contract with Okeh Records, a subsidiary of Columbia Records. His recordings with Okeh became some of the most important recordings of the era by white jazz musicians. These performances illustrate the light, airy timbre of Trumbauer and the cool phrasing of Beiderbecke — both of whom were at the peak of their inspiration.  It was his delicate, lyrical approach to the saxophone that influenced one of the Swing Era’s greatest tenor saxophonists, Lester Young.

The following tune is a seminal recording in the jazz canon, Singin’ the Blues.

Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra

February 4, 1927

The cast of characters:

Frankie Traumbauer (C-Melody sax), Bix Beiderbecke (cornet), Eddie Lang (guitar), Jimmy Dorsey (clarinet), Chauncey Morehouse (drums), Bill Rank (trombone) and Paul Mertz (piano).

The tune starts with a four bar introduction and then Tram plays the main melody or head of the tune while Eddie Lang accompanies him. Bix comes in at 1:02 with a lyrical solos over the 32 bar chorus. Then we’ve got some collective improvisation for 8 bars before Jimmy Dorsey solos on clarinet for the next 8 measures. The entire band comes in to close out the tune — one again in collective improvisation!

This is a great example of the cool, laid-back style of Bix and Tram. Perhaps in a later post, I will juxtapose Armstrong and Bix — like night and day!