Clarence Williams: selected recordings, 1923 to 1929
Clarence Williams biographies
- RedHotJazz.com; biography with photos and RAM files of vintage recordings — recordings are sorted according to 21 different bands or sessions led by Williams
- Jass.com, biography by Thomas L. Morgan (link updated 19 July 2011)
- All Music, biography by Scott Yanow
(above) the photo is identified at my source as “Clarence Williams & his Orchestra c.1925.” It may look familiar. A more frequently found image from the same photograph, often labeled Clarence Williams and his Blue Five, has one musician lopped off each end of this picture (see below).
The following two are (I think) among the earliest of recordings by Williams, from a 30 May 1923 session in New York City, featuring Eva Taylor as vocalist. I’ve not yet determined the band name or personnel for the session.
Barefoot Blues (Clarence Williams) – vocal Eva Taylor, recorded 30 May 1923
Do It Again Long Time Papa (W. Benton Overstreet) – vocal Eva Taylor, recorded 30 May 1923
In 1923, Williams accompanied Bessie Smith on piano on her first recording session for Columbia, and on some of her subsequent early recordings.
Down Hearted Blues (Alberta Hunter, Lovie Austin) – Bessie Smith, vocal, accompanied on piano by Clarence Williams, 16 February 1923, NY
Gulf Coast Blues (Clarence Williams) – Bessie Smith (v), Clarence Williams (p)
Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do (Porter Grainger, E. Robbins) – Bessie Smith (v), Clarence Williams (p) – 26 April 1923, NY
CLARENCE WILLIAMS & HIS BLUE FIVE
Wild Cat Blues (Clarence Williams / Thomas Wiley) – recorded 30 July 1923
The provider indicates that this session with the Clarence Williams Blue Five was Sidney Bechet’s first official one and notes that
Together with cornetist Tom Morris, trombonist John Mayfield, Clarence Williams piano and Buddy Christian they recorded just two tunes. The Wild Cat Blues became a popular feature for Bechet. He recorded the tune again in 1947 and 1949. It had a big impact on the revival world. Claude Luter did it on record again and later Monty Sunshine with the Chris Barber Band made it into a tophit. Even today, many of the better revival bands have this great piece in their repertoire.
Mean Blues (Billy Symthe / Art Gilham) – recorded 14 November 1923
Info and comments from the video provider:
This blues is wonderfully conveyed here with Bechet proving his brilliance as both a soloist and exponent of the blues. Who cannot be moved by this beautiful sensitive soprano [clarinet] playing. Recorded in 1923 in New York with Thomas Morris on cornet. Clarence Williams pno, Charlie Irvis tbn, Buddy Christian bjo.
In the title, the provider suggests that Louis Armstrong is present. But does not list him in the musician credits.
Texas Moaner (Clarence Williams / Fae Barnes) — recorded 17 October 1924
Two songs from the musical review, Dixie To Broadway which had a New York run at the Broadhurst Theatre 29 October 1924 to circa. January 1925. Eva Taylor is the vocalist for the following six sides.
Mandy, Make Up Your Mind (Grant Clarke / Roy Turk / George W. Meyer) vocal: Eva Taylor – recorded 17 December 1924, NY
I’m a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird (Grant Clarke / Roy Turk / George W. Meyer / Arthur Johnson) – vocal by Eva Taylor – recorded 17 December 1924, NY
Info from the video provider:
A 1924 N.Y. recording by Clarence Williams Blue Five, a group overflowing with jazz genius. As well as Pops on cornetwe have Bechet ss, Charlie Irvis tbn, Clarence Williams pno, Buddy Christian bjo, and the irrepressible Eva Taylor singing.
Papa De Da-da (Clarence Williams / Clarence Todd / Spencer Williams) — recorded 4 May 1925 in New York. The provider says:
…this number written by Williams features Louis Armstrong cornet, Sidney Bechet on soprano sax and Eva Taylor vocal. Also included here are Buster Bailey ss, and Don Redman alto sax, Buddy Christian bjo, Charlie Irvis tbn.
Get It Fixed (Clarence Williams) – vocal Eva Taylor – recorded 15 December 1925
Cake Walking Babies From Home (Clarence Williams / Chris Smith / Henry Troy) 8 January 1925, NY — Clarence Williams (p); Sidney Bechet (cl, ss); Louis Armstrong (cnt); Charlie Irvis (tb); Buddy Christian (bj); Eva Taylor (vcl).
The song had previously been recorded in a 22 December 1924 session led by Clarence Williams with a group called the Red Onion Jazz Babies. The musicians: Louis Armstrong (cor) Charlie Irvis (tb) Sidney Bechet (cl, ss) Lil Hardin (p) Buddy Christian (bj) Alberta Hunter, Clarence Todd (vo)
(Below) Bessie Smith accompanied by Henderson’s Hot Six — recorded 6 May 1925
“Cake walkers may come/Cake walkers may go/But I want to tell you ’bout a couple I know”
musicians (acc. The Red Hot Jazz Archives*):
Bessie Smith (vocal)
Joe Smith (cornet)
Charlie Green (trombone)
Buster Bailey (clarinet)
Fletcher Henderson (piano)
Charlie Dixon (banjo)
* musician credits: Redhotjazz.com does not include either Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophone) and Bob Escudero (tuba) as credited in the lineup given by the video provider. The Red Hot Jazz Archive lists only three recordings by this group, which it confusingly calls “Bessie Smith accompanied by Henderson’s Hot Six,” though the total is six members including her.
CLARENCE WILLIAMS & his BLUE SEVEN
Candy Lips (Mike Jackson / Jack Lauria)
Eva Taylor vocal, accompanied by Clarence Williams Blue Seven. November 16, 1926. This Clarence Williams group includes members of Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra-Tommy Ladnier, cornet; Jimmy Harrison, trombone; Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax. Tommy Ladnier plays a very lyrical cornet solo on this recording unlike his usual Louis Armstrong inspired hotter style
Redhotjazz, on the other hand, has two Clarence Williams recordings in their listings, and both are by other bands of his: The Clarence Williams Jazz Kings recorded the song on 25 January 1925, and his Washboard Four recorded it on 29 January 1927.
Prince Robinson, Clarence Williams, Ed Allen, Floyd Robinson of Clarence Williams & his Washboard Four
CLARENCE WILLIAMS & his WASHBOARD FOUR
Nobody But My Baby is Getting My Love (Clarence Williams, Andy Razaf)
Washboard Four – recorded 29 January 1927
Bessie Brown and her Jazz Band – 1928
CLARENCE WILLIAMS and his NOVELTY FOUR
According to Redhotjazz.com this group had only one recording session, on 25 November 1928. The musicians: Eddie Lang (Guitar,Violin [Viola acc. to eddielang.com]), King Oliver (Cornet), Justin Ring (Percussion), Clarence Williams (Piano, Vocals, Celeste, Violin). Two songs were recorded, In the Bottle Blues and What Ya Want Me to Do.
In the Bottle Blues (Eddie Lang / Clarence Williams / King Oliver) – 25 Nov 1928, NY
The provider of the video claims a very different lineup of Eddie Lang, Lonnie Johnson, Joe Venuti, and Clarence Williams. Really? So who’s playing percussion? And horn? This is just plain sloppy reporting because the complete blues recordings of Eddie Lang are available online at eddielang.com. Lang did in fact record a number of sides with Lonnie Johnson, usually adopting the pseudonym Blind Willie Dunn. But not this track. Eddielang.com gives the same band and lineup as Red Hot Jazz Archives, with a couple of exceptions: They say Lang played viola, not violin. I’ve made this correction. Also, the Lang site doesn’t credit Clarence Williams on violin as does RHJA, but I left that one alone for now.
CLARENCE WILLIAMS and his JAZZ KINGS
Close Fit Blues (Clarence Williams) – recorded 28 January 1928
Freeze Out (Fats Waller) – recorded 26 August 1929, NY