From the Record Shelves #202

Rose of Washington Square

LP Commodore Classics 6.25490 AG

Milt Gabler had a record shop since 1926 in Manhattan, across the street from the Commodore Hotel. In the thirties, he sold mostly reissues of the jazz classics from the 1920s, and one day he said to Eddie Condon: “I’ve been thinking of making some records myself, under my own label. Most of the men who played on the discs are still available. Why can’t we get them together and make some new ones?

His company, Commodore Records, was started in 1938. Pee Wee Russell played on sessions with Condon and Wild Bill Davison, and also did a couple as the leader of a trio and a quartet.

His clarinet style, as is said on the liner notes, can be described by the words, “Notes like rusty nails one minute, notes of piping lyricism the next.”

I’ve chosen a tune that, besides being a concentrated and swinging performance by all, shows that he improvised more horizontally than clarinet players tend to do, using only a part of the instrument’s register, like if he were playing a trumpet. And I hear inspiration in the phrasing from Bix Beiderbecke who Pee Wee played with in St. Louis in the middle of the 1920s. Jess Stacy is on piano, Sid Weiss on bass, and George Wettling on drums in this New York, 1944, session.