1956 VIK Records LX-1081 Mono
(VIK is an RCA Records subsidiary)
1. Tailgate Itch
2. South Rampart Street Parade
3. Mack The Knife
5. Clarinet Marmalade
1. China Boy
2. March Of The Bob Cats
3. Toot-Toot Tootsie Goodbye
4. You Can Depend On Me
Arranged and conducted by Santo Pecora.
Recorded in the Parisian Room, New Orleans, June 11, 1956.
Recording Engineer: Jephson Miller.
Produced and directed by Herman Diaz, Jr.
Santo Pecora, trombone
Roy Liberto, trumpet
Lester Bouchon, clarinet and tenor sax
Ronald Dupont, piano
Paul Guma, guitar
Arthur Seelig, bass
Roger Johnston, drums
Like the prophet who is without honor in his own country, the great jazz musician who stays in his home town is all too apt to be taken for granted. New Orleans-born Santo Pecora has been playing in his home town since 1942 but, unlike the ignored home-bred prophet, Pecora is accepted as one of the elder statesmen of jazz, a great figure of the traditional form of the music. That Pecora has gained such warm-hearted acceptance at home can be attributed, to some extent at least, to the fact that he astutely spent much of the twenty years preceding his return to New Orleans in such distant and glamorous quarters as Chicago and Hollywood building the reputation that he was eventually to take home in triumph.
In this day of many aging but active jazz musicians, when Kid Ory is on the crest of success at 70, Sidney Bechet is the toast of France at 60, when 65-year-old Pops Foster still plucks vigorously at his bass and 60-year-old Tony Spargo, the drummer in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, still whacks his snare and huffs heatedly on his kazoo - amidst all these, Pecora is not startlingly old (55 in March, 1957) but he is one of the true veterans of jazz.
He first attracted attention as a member of the famous New Orleans Rhythm Kings when he replaced George Brunis, two years his senior, on trombone in 1924. To do this, he had to leave New Orleans for Chicago (for, despite its name, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings was actually a Chicago band, but one which was dominated by refugees from New Orleans). Before taking this trip, Pecora had studied French horn with what could only have been legitimate intentions - this was some thirty years before anybody thought of the French horn as a jazz instrument. However, before he became too involved with the French horn, he gave it up and switched to trombone. Thus equipped, he entered on his professional career by playing in a New Orleans movie theater.
Pecora's two-year stay with the NORK (New Orleans Rhythm Kings) provided him with a reputation which opened doors for him for years afterward. He worked steadily in a variety of commercial bands in the late Twenties and during the Thirties he traveled the land with numerous dance bands, including Benny Meroff's and Buddy Rogers', and got back onto the edges of the jazz scene in Ben Pollack's band. When Paul Mares, the original trumpet man in the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, reorganized the group for a recording date in 1935, Pecora was back in the trombone chair.
From then on he devoted more and more of his time to jazz rather than to commercial work. He played with his New Orleans confrere, the distinctive trumpet man, Sharkey Bonano, in New York, then switched his locale to the West Coast. He was there for several years, playing with Wingy Manone and with groups of his own. While he was in Hollywood, Pecora appeared in two films, Bing Crosby's "Rhythm on the River" and "Blues in the Night."
In 1942, when the prodigal son came home, he was greeted as any true prophet should be. Since then, he has stayed close to New Orleans, taking a jaunt out now and then but spending most of his working time in the neighborhood of Bourbon Street with Sharkey's band or his own group. In recent years his band has shared the stand at the Famous Door with young George Girard's group (which can be heard on the second volume of this Dixieland Festival series, Vik LX-1063; Volume One, which is Vik LX-1057, features Tony Almerico's Parisian Room Band and Volume Three, Vik LX-1058, is a jam session involving members of the three bands heard in the other volumes, including Pecora himself).
Pecora's band is made up of Roy Liberto, trumpet; Lester Bouchon, clarinet and tenor sax; Ronald Dupont, piano; Paul Guma, guitar; Arthur Seelig, bass; Roger Johnston, drums; and, of course, "Mr. Tail-gate" himself on trombone.
The tunes reflect Pecora's relatively cosmopolitan nature. The emphasis is not as strongly in the basic Dixieland repertoire as it has been in the earlier volumes in the Dixieland Festival series. To be sure, Clarinet Marmalade and Copenhagen are straight out of that repertoire. But China Boy and You Can Depend on Me are reflections of Pecora's Chicago period for these are tunes that the Chicagoans were bringing to light then. The tinge of music hall in Toot-Toot Tootsie Goodbye offers a strong suggestion of one of the contributory sources of jazz. South Rampart Street Parade and March of the Bobcats both come from the Bob Crosby band which had a nucleus of New Orleans men and drew in spirit on the Crescent City. Mack the Knife, from Kurt Weill's "Three Penny Opera," was first put into traditional jazz form by Louis Armstrong, with an arranging assist from Turk Murphy. As for Tailgate Itch, this is Pecora's own composition, a showcase for his masterful demonstration of the proper use of the tailgate trombone.
- JOHN S. WILSON