All posts tagged History

… and elsewhere.

Our compilation of Pre-War Stomps did not include the real classic, Stompin’ at the Savoy. This refers to the Savoy Ballroom which was located at 596 Lenox Avenue, between West 140th and 141st Streets in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

The Savoy opened in 1926 and featured a large 10,000 square foot dance floor which began to attract the best dancers in New York. In 1927 the Savoy began sponsoring jazz band competitions. Chick Webb’s Harlem Stompers participated in the first of these cutting sessions which was called the Battle of Jazz. Over the next several years, Chick Webb and His Orchestra would become the Savoy house band and with his triumphs over the likes of the Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, and Benny Goodman bands, he would be crowned The King of the Savoy.

The soon-to-become-a jazz standard was originally composed by Edgar Sampson  in 1936 while he was alto saxophonist and arranger in Chick Webb’s band. He was later hired by Benny Goodman as an arranger, and Andy Razaf, Fats Waller’s frequent lyricist, turned the instrumental hit into the song, so all four share writing credits.

01. Errol GarnerStompin’ At The Savoy (1951)
02. Chick Webb Savoy OrchestraStomping at the Savoy (1934)
03. Benny GoodmanStompin’ at The Savoy (1938)
04. Charlie ChristianStomping At The Savoy (Live in a small club 1941)
05. Remo Palmieri (w. Teddy Wilson?) – Stompin’ at the Savoy (1945)
06. Jazz At The Philharmonic –  Stompin’ at the Savoy 1 (1954)
The soloists are, in order, Flip Phillips, Bill Harris and Joey deFranco.
07. Jazz At The Philharmonic –  Stompin’ at the Savoy 2 (1954)
The soloists are, in order, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge.
Both parts are from the 1954 Norman Granz Jam Sessions.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong sing, swing, and stomp about the Savoy in 1957 …

The ballroom closed permanently in October 1958, but the music has lived on..
08. The Three SoundsStompin’ at the Savoy (1961)
09. Louis StewartStomping At The Savoy (1994)
Count Basie’s band, like all the other bands, did play in other venues.
10. Count Basie & His OrchestraSwinging At The Daisy Chain (1937)
The only reference I can find to the Daisy Chain is this: Buffet flats such as Hazel Valentine’s Daisy Chain offered sexual tableaux – both hetero and homo- staged in apartment chambers.
11. Count Basie & His OrchestraJumpin’ At The Woodside (1937)
12. Duke Ellington & Count BasieJumpin’ At The Woodside (1961)
The Duke also played at the Savoy and, presumably, the Woodside Hotel in New York.
13. Branko KraljJumpin’ At The Woodside (1962)
14. Albert AmmonsBoogie Woogie At The Civic Opera (1946)
Was it the Chicago Civic Opera House?

This was the ‘house band’ at the Savoy Hotel in London between 1923 and 1927. They broadcast live once a week on BBC radio.

Martin Taylor is, like the Savoy Orpheans  were, British.

Our research into the History of Jazz in Indonesia is currently focussed on the pre-war years. From 1919 up until 1941, one tune is cited more than any other as being very popular at the social gatherings, be they at high end hotels such as Hotel des Indes or at weekend matinees at Tjikini Swimming Baths: Tiger Rag. In a jazz band competition held in Batavia in 1934, Brown’s Sugar Babies version “made the audience so very excited that the jury had no choice but to award them the first prize.”

In an interview (track 1) with musicologist Alan Lomax, Jelly Roll Morton explained how Tiger Rag came about from his adaptation of French quadrilles  and other music forms.

Lady Jersey introduces the quadrille to England

Morton also claimed to have written and named the tune. He may have done, but there has been some controversy since. A competing claim came from Nick LaRocca, leader of the Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band (ODJB) who recorded the first jazz sides in 1917. On 17th August that year, they recorded Tiger Rag for Aeolian-Vocalion Records, but the company’s disk format was not popular and didn’t sell well. The tune was, however, copyrighted, published, and credited to the band members Nick LaRocca, Eddie Edwards, Henry Ragas, Tony Sbarbaro, and Larry Shields.

They recorded the tune a second time on 25 March 1918 for Victor Records, backed with Skeleton Jangle as the A side. It was a big national hit and established the tune as a jazz standard.

For some, the tune has been an obsession. Andrew Jon Sammut has a blog and Nicholas Christopher wrote a novel. Serious musicians may value Thomas Grady Hartsock’s academic thesis, A Song Through Time: Tiger Rag and the Twentieth Century, which was published just last year. Starting with ODJB, he casts his words over four other artists, including Les Paul with Mary Ford, and Wynton Marsalis.

In 1954, producer Fred Quimby and director Tex Avery released an animated cartoon Dixieland Droopy, which was banned though we can’t find out why. And you can’t see it now on your computers either because every copy uploaded to YouTube appears to be ‘broken’ around the half way point. So hold that tiger, and keep your eye out for it on the Cartoon Network.

In 1965, the Danish Esso oil company issued a vinyl single and like their British counterparts, although presumably in Danish, exhorted Danes to ‘put a tiger in their (car) tanks’.

Harry DaCosta later wrote lyrics to the instrumental, and in 1931 it became a million-seller and a No.1 national hit for the Mills Brothers .

By now, you may be wondering what this all has to do with Indojazzia. Our compilation is in chronological order of recording, originally ending with Teddy Wilson. In the mid-fifties when the yet to be anointed ‘Godfather of Indonesian Jazz’ was still in his teens, Bubi Chen undertook a two-year correspondence course with the Wesco School of Music in New York and Teddy Wilson was his instructor/mentor.

We cannot find a recording of Bubi Chen playing Tiger Rag, so we hope that this recording of “Bubby” playing another ragtime tune in 1998 will do.


Our recent research into the history of jazz in Indonesia has focussed on that played and heard before 1942 when the Japanese brought the Dutch East Indies into World War Two.

From section 2.6 of this document (pdf), we know that jazz was first heard in 1919 when the Deca Park Theatre announced: “Something new! For the first time in the East Indies, dancing with jazz band music.”
[Deca Park, a playground for the Dutch elite, was between Harmoni and the Presidential Palace in present day Jakarta.]

Thanks to an extensive academic dissertation by ethno-musicologist Philip Yampolsky into the pre-war record labels in Batavia, we know that some 98 sides of the 78rpm shellac discs were recorded “with jazz accompaniment“. Unfortunately (for us) he doesn’t record who played what or for which label.

What we have had to assume for the time being is that the many jazz-dance groups, from Batavia, to Surabaya and Sumbawa, taking in Jogjakarta, Malang, Semarang and, presumably, other conurbations, were influenced by the recordings of other, predominantly American but also British, and possibly Filapina, groups.

So, to give you a flavour of the music that drove teenagers wild back in the day, we’ve put together a compilation of recordings (in chronological order) which may have found their way to these shores.

The first seven were discovered here, a fascinated site of downloadable 78rpm ‘platters’.
1915. Pale K Lua & David K Kaili – My Hula Love
Some funky Hawaiian guitar playing, with echoes of pre-jazz ragtime.
1922. Club Royal – Wanna
1922. Paul Whiteman Orchestra – Journey’s End
1922. Zez Confrey – Kitten On The Keys
A transcribed piano roll, and a classic.
1924. Savoy Havana Band – I’m Gonna Bring A Watermelon (pic in folder)
We haven’t checked to see if the Savoy stilll has dances.
1928. Alfredo – Laughing Marionette
1928. Duke Ellington & His Washingtonians – Jubilee Stomp
One of the Duke’s first recordings.

These three are by London based dance bands and downloaded from here.
1928. Jack Hylton – Blinky Moon Bay
1931. Roy Fox (w. Al Bowlly) – Lady Play Your Mandolin
1933. Ambrose (w. Sam Browne) – Stormy Weather

In our researches for A History of Jazz in Indonesia, we discovered that the first time that the music genre was heard in the country was back in 1919. Naturally, this lead us to investigate both the sound of the music and the nature of ‘society’ at the time.

The music was easy: the first jazz record was Livery Stable Blues by the Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band recorded on February 26th 1917. (Listen here.) Note that it’s a foxtrot: jazz was originally intended as dance music, and it was at dances in Jakarta, Surabaya and as far way as Sumbawa that it became popular in the Dutch East Indies.

Further digging gave rise to another thought: those early American jazz musicians smoked a lot of marijuana, and sang about it because it usually made them happy and it got them ‘high’ and sometimes ‘mellow’.

Here is a downloadable compilation of 20s and 30s vocal jazz we’ve put together to demonstrate the fact. (Note: reefer = marijuana cigarette; weed = marijauna leaves; roach = the last bit of the reefer; spinach = a euphenism for marijuana; viper = Harlem slang for a marijuana smoker.)

  1. Larry Adler – Smoking Reefers
  2. Jazz Gillum & His Jazz Boys – Reefer Head Woman
  3. Ella Fitzgerald – When I Get Low I Get High
  4. Julia Lee & Her Boyfriends – Spinach Song (I Didn’t like it The First Time)
  5. Lil Johnson – Mellow Stuff
  6. Bea Foote – Weed
  7. Tampa Red & The Chicago Five – I’m Gonna Get High
  8. Harlem Hamfats – Weed Smokers Dream
  9. Buck Washington – Save The Roach For Me
  10. Cab Calloway – Reefer Man
  11. Fats Waller – Vipers Drag

Fats Waller with a reefer

So our next question was about the libation of choice of the high society folk who had enough wealth and time to dance to jazz music at the prestigious Hotel des Indes.

One may assume that being Dutch their alcohol of choice was jenever (juniper or gin).. But did they also use marijuana to get ‘high’?

To date, we can find no evidence that they did. Our search for ‘marijuana in Dutch East Indies‘ produced only one page and I read that “in the 1600s  … the Dutch imported cannabis from the East Indies.”

It is widely known that marijuana, or gandja as it is known here, is grown in Aceh, and maybe it still is in the hills around Bandung in West Java. However, not only is that irrelevant but it is also confusing because cannabis and hemp are used interchangeably in the article. They are not the same plant genus.

Cannabis is the only plant genus that contains the unique class of molecular compounds called cannabinoids and is high in the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and low in the antipsychoactive cannabinoid, CBD. Hemp, however, is low in THC and high in CBD. It’s great value lies in industry. Until the mid-twentieth century hemp fibres were were needed for ropes, especially on the sailing shops of the time.

Another common recreational drug is opium. The following notes have been gleaned from various sources.

– The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie; VOC) was founded in 1602 and enjoyed huge profits from its spice monopoly through most of the 17th century.
– However, the VOC were not good employers, so in order to supplement their incomes, senior officers engaged in “private-account trading”, including opium smuggling.
– Opium was chiefly sourced from Bengal, then in India (now Bangladesh).
– When the VOC collapsed, bankrupt, on December 31st 1799, the Dutch government took over its assets (and debts), and thus began the Dutch East Indies under the administration of the Dutch government.
– In 1928 the law curtailing the use of opium and other narcotic drugs was proclaimed in the Netherlands, though at the same time keeping the opium trade in the colonies of the Dutch East Indies outside of these regulations.
– From then on until 1942, the Dutch government controlled the opium industry. This included a packaging factory on Jl. Salemba in Batavia. This state monopoly was called the opiumregie.

Initially, smoking opium leads to a euphoric state that then quickly turns to a sleepy, sedated state for the user.

Hence, it was not suitable for jazz dancers.