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13 January 2017


Some very important recordings were made in 1927 by Sam Morgan. His Band played not only in New Orleans, but also in other towns, such as Galveston, along the Gulf Coast.

While Armand Piron's Orchestra was at the same time playing sophisticated, genteel jazz, Morgan's style was just a little more gutzy, pulsating and robust, though still melodic. The band took great care with establishing and maintaining the right tempos - notably for dancing.
That's Sam seated behind the cymbal; with big Jim Robinson and his trombone.
Sam Morgan, born in 1895, was the trumpeter/leader; and his brothers Isaiah (also on trumpet) and Andrew (tenor sax and clarinet) played in his band. On trombone he had the great Jim Robinson, whose fame spread further when he played in bands well after Sam Morgan had died at the age of only 41 (poor Sam suffered a stroke in 1925 and another in 1932). Earle Fouché played clarinet and alto sax. Robinson's cousin Sidney Brown was on bass. Tinke Baptiste and Walter Decou were at various times on piano. Johnny Dave was on banjo. The drummers over the years were Roy Evans and Nolan Williams.

Today Sam Morgan is best remembered for the eight tunes his band recorded in New Orleans over two sessions in 1927. Three of these were spirituals (Over in the Gloryland, Down By The Riverside and Sing On); but the credited composer for all the other five was Sam himself:

Bogalusa Strut
Everybody's Talking About Sammy
Mobile Stomp
Short Dress Gal
Steppin' On The Gas

Have a listen to Morgan's band playing Mobile Stomp:
And now hear it played by one of today's best jazz bands:
Bogalusa Strut, by the way, is said to be a re-interpretation of the first two themes of Scott Joplin's Rose Leaf Rag. If you listen to that rag, you will hear at once that the harmonic progressions are indeed the same.

Mobile Stomp, though in 4/4 time, is said to use the melody of  The Waltz You Saved For Me; and indeed the two melodies are almost identical. But according to my researches so far, it seems The Waltz You Saved for Me was composed in 1930 - after Mobile Stomp, so it is probably unfair to suggest that Morgan 'lifted' his tune from the song.

Most traditional jazz bands in the 21st Century not only show influences of the Sam Morgan Band in their playing and musical arrangements but also still have at least a couple of Morgan's tunes in their repertoire.

And the fact that the Morgan Band recorded the three spirituals seems to have set the precedent that traditional jazz bands must now include spirituals in their programmes. (It is believed the band would never have played spirituals for dances but recorded some only because the recording engineer requested them.) Similarly, the band demonstrated (as in Mobile Stomp) - I think for one of the first times on record - the excitement generated when you play stop-time choruses.

So we all owe a great deal to Sam Morgan. And we are also indebted to Jim Robinson who, in later years, revived and perpetuated his music, and also made us aware of other tunes Morgan's band liked to play. (See the comments from John Dixon below). 

Sam Morgan's House in New Orleans

John Dixon (of The Shotgun Jazz Band in New Orleans) has kindly sent me the following information:
It’s worth noting that more can be learned from the interview with Andrew Morgan from the book ‘The End of the Beginning’ (by Barry Martyn [Jazzology Books, 1998]). Morgan speaks at length about the recording of those cuts (most of the tunes were not in their regular repertoire prior to the recording).

Also, Jim Robinson’s Riverside Living Legends LP ‘Jim Robinson’s New Orleans Band’ is an important record because it was the re-recording of Mobile Stomp and Bogalusa Strut that brought those tunes out of retirement and made them traditional New Orleans jazz standards. When they recorded that album, Jim didn’t even remember how they went. The producers went to Tulane to the archives, got the old SMJB records and played them for the band. The takes you hear recorded on Jim’s record were done just moments after they learned the songs. That record is also chock full of other Sam Morgan band tunes that they regularly played but didn’t record; Apple Tree, Yearning, Whenever You’re Lonely. Also featured on that Riverside LP are George Guesnon and Alfred Williams - both Sam Morgan Jazz Band alumni (though not in the lineup that was recorded). Guesnon is especially well-recorded on Jim’s record. It’s one of my favorite records. 

I’ve attached an image of the backside of the LP I took with my phone, perhaps you can read the album notes.



It is possible to read the liner notes. Click on and enlarge.

The book Enjoying Traditional Jazz by Pops Coffee is available from Amazon.