Monday, September 06, 2010

Junie Cobb - a forgotten multi-instrumentalist

Junie Cobb - a forgotten multi-instrumentalist ( English) - Junie Cobb - een vergeten veelzijdig muzikant ( Nederlands)

Practically a one-man band

Forty nine years ago Junie Cobb recorded eight tunes with his New Hometown Band, featuring Fortunatus Ricard, nicknamed Fip, Harlan Floyd, better known as Booby, Leon Washington, Ikey Robinson, Walter "Chippy" Cole, Red Saunders and vocalist Annabel Calhoun. Junie Cobb, then 65 years old, played the keys and was to be heard as a vocalist on one tune: Just Because of You. The recordings were made at the Birdhouse in Chicago on the 8th of September, 1961 for Riverside as "Chicago - The living Legends". It would become Junie's last public performance that has been recorded - he must have passed away almost ten years later. Junie Cobb is one of those obscure and neglected musicians of the past. A few months ago Jo pointed me to his music thanks to a great Collector's Classic compilation album entitled The Junie Cobb Collection (1926-1929) (CC 10).

Junie Cobb ( ca 1896- ca 1970) ( drawing: R. Crumb)

Junie Cobb, his Christian name was Junius, was born in Hot Springs AR in ca. 1896 and could play a lot of instruments. As a teenager he started as a piano player in small groups with Johnny Dunn. Johnny Dunn, who came to Europe with Noble Sissle's Band in 1928 would live in the Netherlands during the 1930s up to his death in 1937. Junie Cobb moved back to Chicago early 1920s and played with the Everett Robins's Jazz Screamers and founded his own band for the Club Alvadere in Chicago.

Junie Cobb in an advertisement ( photo from Stomp-Off blog)

As a young adult he learned to play a lot of instruments, mostly reeds, but during his career he played and recorded on the clarinet, on the soprano, alto and tenor saxophone, guitar and banjo, the oboe and the French horn, tuba, trumpet and piano. He also did some vocals. In his earliest recordings he played the clarinet besides the great clarinet player Johnny Dodds. He performed for some years in King Oliver Dixie Syncopators. I don't know if the story has been confirmed, but he seems to have played his part rescueing the instruments at a fire ( a Xmas tree set fire ) during a Christmas concert in a Chicago café the 27th of December, 1924. Junie Cobb, Laurie Wright labelled him as "practically a one-man band", played the third trumpet or fourth sax arrangements, but also piano or drums if required. ( King Oliver - Laurie Wright p. 49). Junie Cobb plays the banjo at King Oliver's Black Snake Blues ( april 1927).

Junie Cobb and his Grains of Corn ( late 1920s) ( photo Red Hot Jazz website)
Junie Cobb's first recording was scheduled in Chicago August 1926 with his Hometown Band. He recorded two tunes: Chicago Buzz and East Coast Trot. You can hear both Junie Cobb and Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Jimmy Blythe at the keys and Eustern Woodfork on banjo. Johnny Dodds was, at that time, part of the Louis Armstrong Hot Five studio band.

South African Blues - Windy City Rhythm Kings ( April 1929)
Junie Cobb made several recordings in the late 1920s, often together with his brother Jimmy as the J.C. Cobb Grains of Corn, a studio group, for Vocalion. These recordings are to be found on the album mentioned above. You can listen to these tacks at the excellent Red Hot Jazz website, where I also found a vague and obscure picture of the band. He was also part of bands like Jimmy Noone's Apex Club Orchestra. Enjoy his Love Me Or Leave Me from April 1929.

In 1930 he lived in Europe for some months. He had a group in Paris, but returned to Chicago. Unless an unissued recording session in 1935 it seems that he worked continuousl
y in bands in Chicago and as a solo pianist, accompany vocalist Annabelle Calhoun, but he wasn't recorded until the 1950s when he played oboe and French horn in the Barney Kessel Orchestra, recorded for Contemporary as Music To Listen to Barney Kessel By ( sic) ( Contemporary C3521).

Although he stopped mid 1950s to play in public he returned into the studios in 1961 with his New Hometown Band once ...............
Junie Cobb, only one photo seem to exist, died in obscurity somewhere around 1970. This multi-instrumentalist, practically a one-man band, is no longer listed in the moderate modern jazz discographies (except some good ones of course .........) and, although present on some reissues with rare obscure and neglected Chicagoans, the only album which give a overview of his 1926-1929 career is the Junie Cobb Collection 1926-1929 by Collector's Classics - great 1920s hot jazz music.

Finally I love to share with you his own composition Once or Twice, which belongs to my favourites. He recorded it in July 1929 with his Grains of Corn. I love to share with you a fragment of a January 1930 recording by Lonnie Johnson and Spencer Williams in a great vocal duet, accompanied by James P. Johnson at the piano and Spencer Williams on scraper. Lonnie Johnson, of course, plays his guitar: Once or Twice.

Hans Koert

Junie Cobb is one of those 1920s musicians that has been forgotten now. He must have passed away ca. 1970 complete neglected by his fans. He was a skilled musician, who could play a dozen instruments and was labelled as practically a one-man band. Keep swinging loves to spotlight this forgotten multi-insrumentalist and his musical heritage. If you don't want to miss it, ask for the newsletter.

Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Friends of the Keep Swinging blog Keep Swinging Contributions



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

Thanks for the info and the inserted video fragments - great to have some spotlight on Junie Cobb.

1:35 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home