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Louisiana Sugar Babes: Persian Rug

April 17, 2010

Louisiana Sugar Babes
Persian Rug

Recorded in 1929

Let me give you a few good rules of thumb for searching out jazz gems in piles of unsorted old records. Just look at the name of the band:

1. If it contains the name of a southern state or city, that’s good.

2. If it contains the word “babies” or “babes,” that’s good.

3. The sillier the name of the band, the better the jazz. As proof, I adduce the fact that the best jazz records ever made were recorded by Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers.

This record is a winner in all three categories, so of course I snatched it up. What I heard when I got it home was one of the oddest jazz performances I’d ever come across. The Louisiana Sugar Babes turn out to be Fats Waller on the pipe organ, his great mentor James P. Johnson on the piano, plus a cornet and a reed man who plays, among other instruments, the bassoon.

James P. Johnson.

They don’t have to use any “oriental” trickery at all to make this tune sound exotic: they just have to be playing an organ, piano, cornet, and bassoon. That’s exotic enough.

Fats Waller.

I won’t attempt to comment on the number too much, because it’s best to let it speak for itself. Waller was a virtuoso theater organist before he was a piano sensation, so he obviously knows what he’s doing here. Johnson fills in the rhythm with perfect taste. The bassoon has a very effective duet with Waller. Beyond that, you’re on your own.

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From → Jazz

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