Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Claude Hopkins: a forgotten band leader

Claude Hopkins: een vergeten bandleider (Nederlands) Claude Hopkins: a forgotten band leader ( English)

(a limited) CLAUDE HOPKINS Discography ( only the presented albums: The Roseland Ballroom New York presents Claude Hopkins and his Orchestra and The Cotton Club New York Presents Claude Hopkins and his Cotton Club Orchestra )

Band leader and stride piano player: I Would Do Anything For You
Hans Koert

Due to the fact that this Keep Swinging blog reached its 1100th blog I love to re-post a contribution about Claude Hopkins. There are several reasons to do so. First of all I found some very cheap budget albums in the series of "original live-recordings" by Galaxy Music released ca. 2001 and rediscovered this great 1930s swing music, now complete forgotten. The former Claude Hopkins contribution contained two fragments of films, but the link was rejected, so I love to share one of the fragments again. And third, last but not least, Claude Hopkins visited the Breda Oude Stijl Jazz Festival (= Breda Traditional Jazz Festival) of May 1978 and I was one of the people in the audience. In fact, I learned that Claude Hopkins, who was born in Alexandria August, 1903 must have been the "oldest legend in jazz" I heard in a concert. The Dutch veteran band leader André Eschauzier, who was the leader of the Ceresband late 1920s, and a "guest of honour" for years at the Doctor Jazz Meetings in Boskoop and Wageningen, was born in Scheveningen (The Netherlands), May 1906. He must be "second" in this small contest, although I never heard him playing. I should post a contribution about this great Dutch jazz legend later.

Josephine Baker and her revue with Claude Hopkins at the piano (1925)

Claude Hopkins, born 1903 as said earlier, became a very popular jazz, dance and radio personality during the 1930s. He studied music ( and medicines) at Howard University and toured in 1925 with Josephine Baker to Europe as her musical director ( like Oscar Alemán did, ten years later, as her musical director of the Baker Boys along Europe) with a band featuring Sidney Bechet. Late 1920s he became the leader of the Charlie Skeete band, which was renamed as the Claude Hopkins Orchestra. With this group he would become very successfully during the 1930s, playing in clubs and for radio stations. One of those typically Claude Hopkins style elements was the fact that he loved to use cup-mutes brass, which gave his bands that rather soft sweet sound, which was very popular to the common people early 1930s, although the club owners didn’t like it. Hot Jazz, as played in the Roaringb Twenties was out - Sweet Music was in; sweet music became "hot".

The Roseland Ballroom - New York ( 1920s)

While playing at the Savoy Club Lew Brecker, owner of the famous Roseland Ballroom, sat in one evening and invited Claude Hopkins and his band for a two-week trial in his famous club. In the Claude Hopkins biography Crazy Fingers, Warren Vaché sr. writes, that Claude didn't want to change for the Roseland Ballroom as they liked playing at the Savoy: Well it sounds like a wonderful opportunity and I won't deny that I’m flattered by the offer, but .... well, we like it here. We're happy here. And the dancers and the radio audience like us. I'm not sure we'll fit in at Roseland’s. In fact, Claude Hopkins was frightened as he had to play opposite the famous Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. and what about Jean Goldkette, Paul Whiteman, Chick Webb and Ben Bernie, who regularly played in the club while on tour. and, as he had said, he didn't want to get rid of his Savoy gig. Well, he got the guarantee that he could return to Savoy’s if he didn't make it in the famous club and so Claude Hopkins started at the Roseland Ballroom. He played almost the entire year of 1932 and became very popular due to the CBS-Network radio programs that were transmitted three or four times a week. His signature tune, I Would Do Anything For You, composed by Alex Hill and Bob Williams, was to be heard from coast to coast on thousands of radio sets each day. Although Ovie Alston, trumpet player, had a great voice too, he invited Orlando Robeson to become his regular vocalist. Claude was fascinated by his falsetto voice and the audience and radio listeners liked it - Orlando became a very popular crooner in those days.

Mush Mouth - Claude Hopkins and his Orchestra - 24th of Msy,1932 (Columbia)
On the 24th of May, 1932 Claude Hopkins recorded four tunes which were released on Columbia, and the next day another recording session was scheduld and another four tunes were recorded ( Three Little Words - I Would Do Anything For You - Hopkin's Scream - Washington Squabble ) but, probably due to the economic recession. where never released. These four sides are to be found on the Galaxy reissue as the first four tracks, but, not, as suggested, "original live- recordings from 1932".

Claude Hopkins and his Roseland Ballroom Orchestra ( 1933)

March 1933 another recording session was scheduled, now probably for Brunswick ( according the matrices) and seven tracks were waxed - all on the Galaxy reissue ( three tunes ( Three Little Words, Just You Just Me and Ain't Misbehavin') have Orlando Robeson as the vocalist. These recordings were rejected too for unknown reasons. The tune Shake Your Ashes is really a great example of Claude Hopkins "hot" sound and remembers me to the period long ago, when I first discovered this music. And what about Ain't Misbehavin'? I seldom heard it played more swinging ...... with a great vocal by Orlando.

asaki ( with the Nicholas Brothers) and Loveless Love - Claude Hopkins and his Orchestra ( 1933)

Late 1934 the band was at his best and the music played was two years ahead to other musicians. It's late 1934 when Claude Hopkins' manager decided to book the band for the famous Cotton Club in New York. This was a great opportunity for Claude, although the band had to play as a backing orchestra now too for great entertainers like The Nicholas Brothers, Butterbeans and Susie and Bill Bojangles Robinson. In October 1935 the bands recorded 16 tracks for radio transcription as Claude Hopkins and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

These recordings are to be found on the other Galaxy reissue ( Claude Hopkins and his Cotton Club Orchestra (Galaxy 3899402)). This record is subtitled Original Live recordings 1935, but, although these tracks were made as radio transcriptions ( "canned" music to use in radio programs) there is no indication that it was recorded for a "live" audience at the Cotton Club. The personnel list on the album omits the vocalists Fred Norman and Ovie Alston. a careless omission

The first mentioned Galaxy record, the one that says to contain the Roseland Ballroom live recordings ( which isn't ) ends with four of the so-called Ammor label session; the last recording session before the band was broke up.

Cotton Club New York (1930s)
These two reissue on the Galaxy label learn that you shouldn't believe what's on the cover: NO live recordings - NO recordings made at the Roseland Ballroom nor the Cotton Club - but, nevertheless, great recordings from this popular 1930s swing band by a great, now forgotten, stride piano player and band leader. in New York

Claude Hopkins passed away February 1984

Okay - a replay for Claude Hopkins in "Loveless Love"

Hans Koert

(a limited) CLAUDE HOPKINS Discography ( m.b.t. de besproken heruitgaven The Roseland Ballroom New York presents Claude Hopkins and his Orchestra en The Cotton Club New York Presents Claude Hopkins and his Cotton Club Orchestra )

Albert Snaer - Sylvester Lewis - Ovie Alston ( trumpet) Fernando Arbello (trombone) Edmond Hall - Gene Johnson - Bobby Sands (reeds) Claude Hopkins (director and piano) Walter "Jo' Jones (guitar) Henry Turner (tuba) Pete Jacobs (drums) - Orlando Robeson (vocal)
Recorded New York, 25th of May, 1932
Three Little words / I Would Do Anything For You (OR vo) / Hopkins Scream / Washington Squabble
Albert Snaer - Sylvester Lewis - Ovie Alston ( trumpet) Fernando Arbello (trombone) Edmond Hall - Gene Johnson - Bobby Sands (reeds) Claude Hopkins (director and piano) Walter "Jo' Jones (guitar) Henry Turner (tuba) Pete Jacobs (drums) - Orlando Robeson (vocal)
Recorded New York, 9th of March 1933
hree Little words / Shake Your Ashes / Mystic Moan / Just You Just Me (OR vo) / Washington Squabble / Ain't Misbehavin' (OR vo) / Honeysuckle Rose
Albert Snaer - Sylvester Lewis (trumpet) Ovie Alston ( trumpet + vocals) Fernando Arbello (trombone) Fred Norman (trombone + vocal) Hilton Jefferson - Gene Johnson (alto saxophone) Claude Hopkins (director and piano) Walter "Jo' Jones (guitar) Henry Turner (tuba) Pete Jacobs (drums) - Orlando Robeson (vocal)
Recorded New York, 18th of October 1935
I Would Do Anything For you / Nagasaki - Yankee Doodel Never Went To Town (OA vo) / Backbeats / What'll I Do / Traffic Was Terrific ( FN vo) / Aw, Shucks / Singin' In The Rain / Nola / Sweet Horn (OA vo) / Broadway Rhythm / Somebody (FN vo) / That's a Plenty / Everybody Shuffle (OA vo) / In The Shade of the Old Apple Tree

Albert Snaer - Rusell Jones - Herman Autry (trumpet) Ray Hogan - Norman Greene - Bernard Archer (nrombones) Howard Johnson - Norman Thornton - Bobby sands - Benny Waters ( reeds) Claude Hopkins (director + piano) Walter Jones (guitar) Elmer James (bass) - Walter Johnson (drums) Orlando Robeson (vocals)
Recorded New York 4th of March 1940
Yacht Club Swing / Out of Lunch / A Little Rain Must Fall ( OR vo) / What's The Matter With Me ( OR vo)

Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Keep Swinging News letter Keep Swinging Contributions

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Blogger Jo said...

Congratulations regarding the blog entry no 1100 - amazing! - As always, a great contribution about Claude Hopkins - I really should like to listen to these forgotten gems hidden on long out-of-print LPs. A shame that the cover info is incorrect, but thanks a lot for bringing the correct details in the blog. Great video spots as well, excellent work!


9:13 AM  
Blogger claude Hopkins jr said...

I want to thank you for giving my dad (yes Claude is my dad and I'm a jr) some credit which is always nice to hear ppl speak of him as he was a very talented man I was a little tike in the 50's when he was playing at the metropole cafe
with Red allen and cozy cole and roy eldridge. this is my first time on your site. Do you post different musicians at diff times
I would like to learn more about this blog

5:54 AM  
Blogger Hans Koert said...

Contact me at keepswinging at live point nl

7:49 PM  

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