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Isham Jones: Forgetful Blues

March 14, 2010

Isham Jones and His Orchestra in 1922. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Isham Jones and His Orchestra
Forgetful Blues

Recorded in 1923

The best and most interesting all-around dance band of the early 1920s belonged to Isham Jones. These days Jones is remembered mostly as the composer of “It Had to Be You” and a few other immortal songs; but in the 1920s he was part of the Chicago jazz scene, and he led a band that could play popular ballads and hot jazz with equal style and sophistication.

His star soloist was trumpeter Louis Panico, one of the truly unique voices of jazz, and indeed one whom some jazz critics have named as the first important jazz soloist. But Panico is almost completely forgotten. He doesn’t even have an article in Wikipedia yet. That’s partly because, although he continued to work into the 1930s at least, he seldom recorded after he left Isham Jones.

Here we have a multiple-theme blues (mostly sixteen-bar themes, but with two twelve-bar themes) that shows off Panico’s unique style. Some people compare him to Bix Beiderbecke; their styles are completely different, but what they share is a concern with melody as the primary component of improvisation. Listen to Panico’s soaring obligato above the last chorus: there may have been better soloists in 1923, but not many, and Panico’s style has neither obvious precedents nor obvious descendants.

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  1. Isham Jones: ’Neath Egyptian Skies « The Lateral Cut

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