From the Record Shelves #246

When You and I Were Young Maggie

LP RCA Vintage Series LPM-542

You have the feeling that they do nothing special, just play an old tune together, like they always do. And still, it’s a magical moment in 1938. 

“Together” is the key word here. None is taking down his instrument during the three minutes but taking turns letting each other shine for a chorus with perfect control and balance. Sidney Bechet, with his soprano sax, swings on the melody. Tommy Ladnier’s trumpet comes into focus and swings on and off the beat, and when later in the tune Bechet, who has changed to clarinet, comes forward, it sounds so free and easy, so light yet important, with every note well chosen. Even Mezz Mezzrow’s struggling with his tenor sax solo can be forgiven thanks to the help he gets from the others in the background.

The Panassié sessions have many other good moments and also some less good ones when they did not give the expected result because of a less good combination of musicians or, at times, because there was too much booze in the studio. They were made at a time when the old way, the improvised ensemble, was almost extinct on records. Some of them are considered jazz classics, but this recording has a special place in my heart. 

We are many who have made attempts to recreate more difficult music, with more complex arrangements, from the classic jazz period, but this cannot be copied.