Friday, February 06, 2009

Jay McShann-Claude Williams: The Men From Muskogee

Jay McShann-Claude Williams: De Mannen Uit Muskogee (Nederlands) Jay McShann-Claude Williams: The Men From Muskogee (English)

A (selective) Jay McShann discography
A (selective) Claude Williams discography

JAY McSHANN and CLAUDE WILLIAMS: The Men From Muskogee
Hans Koert
In fact the title of this small contribution The Men From Muskogee, as both soloists of the album have been born in Muskogee Oklahoma (USA), should be labeled as The Man From Muskogee, referring to the LP in front of me. The album is titled in full: Jay McShann - The Man From Muskogee. On the cover you can find a picture of Jay McShann and Claude Williams.

Jay McShann ( photo courtesy: Bill Smith (

The career of Jay McShann, nicknamed Hootie ( tunes like Hootie BlBes, Hold 'em Hootie, Hootie Ignorant Oil (Whateverthatmaybe?) and Hootie Boogie refer to that name), could be split into two periods.
He was born in January 1916 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and, as a young guy, he heard jazz as played by Earl Hines ' Orchestra. He played during the 1930s in several local bands, like Al Denny's Band in and around Kansas City, before he founded his own band, the Jay McShann Orchestra, with, as one of the members in the reeds section, a young talented alto saxophone player that would become more famous then the band’s leader Jay McShann: Charlie Parker. Bird, as he was nicknamed, Yardbird to be more complete, made his first recordings with Jay McShann (April 1941), although some broadcasts and live recordings from 1940 exist. This album is part of the second period, in which Jay McShann and his music was rediscovered.
He became popular in Europe and made several lengthy tours. This album, The Man From Muskogee, from June 1972, is one of the numerous albums he made in the 1970s. You can find an rather extensive, but not complete discography of Jay McShann's records at the end of this contribution. Love to share with you a fragment of a concert made by Jay McShann with Plas Johnson on tenor saxophone and Milt Hinton (ca. 1990) to introduce you to his kind of music.

His companion on this album is the old-time violin player Claude Williams, nicknamed Fiddle, was raised in Muskogee too and played during the 1930s in bands like Alphonso Trent's and Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy.

Claude Williams ( photo courtesy: Bill Smith

His first recordings for Brunswick were with that band in 1929. He is to be found in Chick Stevens band as well as Count Basie's Orchestra.
The first recordings with Basie's Band were early 1937. During the 1940s he played in all minds of bands all around the States, like the Four Shades of Rhythm, but no recordings were made during that period, except three 78rpm accompanying vocalist Roy Milton for Speciality in June 1952, until this album was released with Jay McShann. During those years he toured with Jay McShann playing the violin and the (electric) guitar. This album contains Claude Williams on violin, but also on the electric guitar on some tracks. Later, in the 1980s he would only play the violin. He was an underrated musician that should be mentioned in the list of great jazz violin player like Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith and Svend Asmussen. In the late 1970s he met Svend Asmussen and Stephane Grappelli at the Nice festival and both masters on the strings were impressed with the swing and drive of this Fiddler from Muskogee. Love to share with you a fragment in which you can see Claude Williams on the violin, a bit out of tune now and then ( let's label it as blue notes ) in an improvisation around the tune Don't Get Around Much Anymore with Tom Larson at Goodrich Middle School.

The Sackville album The Man From Muskogee, recorded in Toronto, Canada, June 1972, has almost a dozen tracks. Remarkable are the various styles of music, that make this record a very pleasant LP to play. You can listen to blues (‘Fore Day Rider and Mary Ann, both sung by Jay McShann, who started to sing during the last decades of his life); ballads (like I'll Catch The Sun and These Foolish Things, with a great role for Claude's violin; boogies and jives (Nancy Boogie and Smooth Sailing) and swinging Kansas City jazz á la Count Basie or stride piano like Earl Hines (Jumping At The Woodside and After You've Gone). Their version of the Yardbird Suite is, of course, dedicated to Charlie Parker. Both Jay as Claude love to play easy accessible music; "I don't like to play music over people's heads", Claude must have said, and that is, in my opinion, the strength of both veteran jazz musicians; the last of the great swing fiddlers; the last black jazz violist (like Stuff Smith) or, referring to Jay McShann, one of the last Kansas City blues piano players.
Love to finish with a fragment of a Montreal Bistro & Jazz Club concert as played by the Jay McShann Quartet eight years ago.

It seems that this LP has been reissued in 1995. Both musicians passed away in their 90s - Jay McShann in December 2006, ninety years old and Claude Williams two years earlier, aged 96. Jazz Music Keeps Young ......
Hans Koert -

A (selective) JAY McSHANN Discography

Hans Koert
= Blues From Kansas City (1941-1943) (GRP)
= The Jazz Heritage - Early Bird (1941-1943) (Spotlight)= McShann's piano (1966)(Capitol)
= Confessin' the Blues (1969) (Classic Jazz)
= Going To Kansas City (1969)(New Yorld)
= Man From Muskogee (1972) (Sackville)
= Kansas City Memories (1973) (Black & Blue)
= Vine Street Boogie (1974) (Black Lion)
= Helen Humes - On The Sunny Side Of The Street (1975) (Black Lion)
= Crazy Legs and Friday Strut (1976) (Sackville)
= Live 2! (1977) (Black & Blue)
= Kansas city On My Mind (1977) (Black & Blue)
= The Last Of The Blue Devils (1977) (Atlantic)
= Blues & Boogie (1978) (Philips)
= Kansas City Hustle (1978) Sackville

= A Tribute To Fats Waller (1978) Sackville
= The Big Apple Bash (1978) (New World)
= Tuxedo Junction (1980) (Sackville)
= Swingmatism (1982) (Sackville)
= At Cafe Des Copains (1983) (Sackville)
= Paris All-Star Blues A Tribute (1989) (Music Masters)
= Some Blues ( 1990)(Chiaroseuro)
= Warm (1991) (Snowball)
= My Baby With The Black Dress On (1991)(Chiaroseuro) = The Missouri Connection (1992) (Reservoir)
= Hootie's Jumping Blues ((1996) (Stony Plain)
= Hootie (1997) (Chiaroseuro)
= Still Jumping The Blues (1998) (Stony Plain)
= What A Wonderful World (1999)(Groove Note)
= Hootie blues (2001) (Stony Plain)

A (selective) CLAUDE WILLIAMS Discography:

Hans Koert

= Man From Muskogee (1972) (Sackville)
= Call for the Fiddler (1976) steeplechase
= Kansas City Giants (1979) (Big Bear)
= Fidddler's Dream 1981 Classic Jazz
= Live at J's, Pt. 1 (1989) Arhoolie
= Live at J's, Pt. 2 (1989)
= Jazz Violin and Guitar Duet ( with John Stewart) (1989) (Global Village)
= Swingtime in New York (1994) (Progressive)
= King Of Kansas City ( 1996) (Progressive)
= Swingin' the Blues Fiddler (1999) (Bull's Eye Blues & Jazz)

Websites you should have visit:
Svend Asmussen Jean-Luc Ponty Leo Slab WAY OUT THERE Web Log (new) Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Keep Swinging News Letter Keep Swinging Contributions

Labels: , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Claude Williams was a wonderful musician. I heard him when he was in his late 80's - not playing guitar anymore, only violin (or fiddle, as he referred to it), and how he played! When he hit the stand, it was as if he were thirty years younger.
Only heard him play live once, but I'll remember it for as long as I'm around.
Incidentally, Claude Williams' manager also managed Benny Waters at that time. Mr. Waters was then in his 90's.
Paul S.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only once but what a memorable experience. It was the Smithsonian's Masters of the Folk Violin tour and the closing jam on "Sweet Georgia Brown" with Claude "Fiddler" Williams swapping choruses with Alison Krauss (then around 13 years old) still makes me smile.

Bill B.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the best things about living in Kansas City over the past 25 years was the opportunity to hear both of these musicians live very often.

Claude Williams was very memorable live. I remember one concert in a theater in which Jay McShann was the headliner and Sweets Edison, Harold Ashby and Claude Williams were the front line. In the first song Sweets and Ashby played very good solos. Then Claude stepped out and blew them off the bandstand with an intense, short, electrifying violin solo, that made members of the audience all around me spontaneously gasp in astonishment.

Another time I saw him in a small tent at the outdoor Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival. He was not one of the headliners on the large main stages. He was dressed in a T shirt and shorts, standing in the grass a few feet from the audience. Every note he played for the hour long set was compelling. The only thing wrong with the set was that he was too democratic, allowing all of the musicians a lot of solo space, and I wanted to hear more from him.

Jay McShann--I heard him more than 25 times live, and it ranged from very good to truly great. His piano playing was very underpublicized. He could really play in a virtuoso way when he wanted to.

HP (Kansas City)

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was lucky to hear Claude Williams participate in a tour sponsored by the National Council for the Traditional Arts. Arhoolie put out a CD of one of the concerts, which also included Kenny Baker, Michael Doucet, Natalie McMaster, and Brendan Mulvihill. This was at Georgetown U. and it must have been 1995 as the notes indicate. Good review on the Arhoolie site!


I remember him doing a wonderful "Going to Kansas City."

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, the only time I ever saw James Carter live when he was really good, Claude Williams was sitting in the front row of the club (the Drum Room in Kansas City, April, 1996). James Carter saw Claude there, a few feet from the stage, and dedicated the set to him. Carter played a no nonsense set that was often quite exciting, at a level above everything else I have ever heard from him


7:41 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home