From the Record Shelves #99

You Ain’t Too Old

LP Philips Classic Jazz Masters A-JL 13653

This Clarence Williams LP has been a favorite of mine since I was about 17 years old. At that time I did not have the record but had borrowed it from an older friend and recorded it on reel to reel tape. Later I’ve bought most of the material when it came out on other vinyl records or still later on CD. But all these years I’ve had a clear picture of how this wonderful album looks in its original form.

And surprisingly, when I came back early from a gig, and it was raining I took shelter in a record shop close to home and had a routine look at their second hand supply. There I found it, only a couple of years ago.

All the tunes are classics to me, so it’s hard to choose between full-bodied performances with Ed Allen’s fabulous cornet lead and Cyrus St. Clair’s sonorous tuba and tunes featuring Eva Taylor’s warm vocals. I have forsaken all this and chosen a tune with a more seldom heard sound.

About half of the recordings are from the early thirties with a jug and washboard orientation, and it’s a perfect party band. In fact, there is a film from the period where the band can be seen playing at a party.

Cecil Scott’s lively clarinet with a growl as a specialty is fronting and gets wonderful support from Ikey Robinson who is playing a Dobro tenor guitar. This four-string guitar in metal with a resonator system for more volume was used by many banjo players in a period of transition before the six stringed rhythm guitar became common. It was tuned in fifths, the same as a tenor banjo.

The washboard is handled by Willie Williams, the brother of Clarence and the latter’s jug playing sounds effective and quite ok to my ears. What is remarkable and a source to the swing and full sound of the group is that they have two pianos in the studio, played by the great stride players Herman Chittison and Willie the Lion Smith. This tune is recorded in 1933 and a couple of years earlier they made You’re Bound to Look Like a Monkey When You Get Old that is a fun tune to play, but when I play for people older than myself I avoid it. Better to choose this one. Clarence Todd that was in a singing trio with Clarence and Eva Taylor is doing the scat vocal where he declares “you ain’t too old”.