Orson Welles introduces The Mercury Jazz Combo
Here are some musical gems: Nine rare tracks from the Mercury Jazz Combo available for listening from the Louisiana Digital Library - see the link below.
1. Orson Welles: Introduction to the Mercury Jazz Combo
2. High Society
3. Orson Welles on ‘real’ Jazz/Carolina in the Morning
4. Orson Welles elegy to Jimmie Noone/Jimmie’s Blues
5. Orson Welles on Jazz Funerals /Just a Little While
6. Panama Rag
7. Savoy Blues
8. That’s A Plenty
9. Tiger Rag
Last Monday night I was joined by a San Francisco contingent of Wellenetters, including Glenn Anders and Todd Baesen for an evening of local jazz at Rasselas, located in the historic Fillmore jazz district. To our great surprise, a guest saxophone and trumpet player showed up to join the regular quintet at around 11:00 pm and nearly blew the roof off the place. Unfortunately, there were only six people in the audience! We later found out the two guest jazz players were visiting San Francisco with the touring Broadway show Jersey Boys, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
I bring this up merely to point out that nothing much has changed since Orson Welles began championing jazz players on The Orson Welles Almanac radio show back in 1944, noting that “jazz is art for art's sake if ever there was such a thing—it’s music musicians play for themselves, for their own satisfaction, the way they like it.”
Anyway, in searching out some jazz players like Kid Ory, I came across Macresarf1’s review of the Louis Armstrong movie, New Orleans which goes into some detail about Orson Welles own planned jazz segments for It’s All True. It also details some of Welles work with jazz players on the Orson Welles Almanac radio show, as follows:
“Among Orson Welles several radio activities during World War II, he hosted The Orson Welles Show, which became The Orson Welles Almanac in 1944. These were variety shows, 26 to a season, emceed by Welles, formed around short dramatic Mercury Players adaptations with weekly guest stars. Broadcast in what we would now call prime time (9:30 – 10 pm, Wednesday nights), they featured, in addition to the King Cole Trio and Ethel Waters as returning guests, "The Mercury All Star Jazz Combination," consisting of Kid Ory (trombone), Mutt Carey (trumpet), Jimmie Noone (clarinet), Buster Wilson (piano), Bud Scott (guitar), Ed Garland (bass) and Zutty Singleton (drums). These gigs are credited in reviving Kid Ory's career, eventually leading to the post-war return to favor of Dixieland Jazz, and giving Ory's group parts in several movies, including NEW ORLEANS, plus a long career at the Club Hangover (with Muggsy Spanier) and other venues in San Francisco's Fillmore Jazz District.”
(Macresarf1’s entire piece on New Orleans and It’s All True can be accessed here:
From the New Orleans review, I also discovered several of the Mercury jazz Combo's segments available for listening at this link to the Louisiana Digital Library:
Here you will find the nine tracks from the show listed above, with Orson Welles introducing the Mercury Jazz Combo as only he can. Welles excellence as narrator reaches its sublime zenith in his tribute to clarinet player Jimmie Noone, who died of a heart attack in 1944, shortly before one of the Welles radio shows he was scheduled to play on. Welles own vocal powers in this tribute go from the dramatic heights, to a mere stage whipsper, making it quite a beautiful piece of oratory, captured for all time through the magic of radio.
Welles also delivered several other memorable introductions, and here is one of them (track 3), before the Mercury Jazz Combo played High Society:
ORSON WELLES: Now it’s time for some music. We bring you three minutes of Jazz. Many of you listening have never heard it before. What you've heard are jazz ideas–slicked up by commercial arrangers and jazz musicians. Real jazz is only available on records unless you are willing to go out and look for it and don’t mind late hours. It’s worth the trouble. The hit tunes, hit arrangements and hit bands may spoil your ear for it at first, but nobody who has ever made an honest effort to find out about it has ever failed to end up as a jazz enthusiast.
The whole thing started in that good time, wide-open, all night carnival city which was New Orleans before the last war. Jazz then swam the river boats and carried this new kind of music up to Chicago. From there it spread all over the world and influenced all popular music and the greater part of what’s called serious music. I’m not going to try and explain what it is, but I would like to point out that jazz is art for art's sake if ever there was such a thing—it’s music musicians play for themselves, for their own satisfaction, the way they like it.
The men we’ve gathered in the studio to play jazz tonight are by general acknowledgement among the finest instrumentalists on Earth. They are the great men of Jazz and their appearance together is a musical event. We bring you now what is probably the only existing jazz band. Experts will recognize these men when they hear them, and I’m proud to list their names: Mutt Carey, trumpet; Kid Ory, trombone; Jimmie Noone, clarinet; Buster Wilson, piano; Bud Scott, guitar; Ed Scott, bass. Zutty Singleton, drums. They’re going to play High Society.