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Leon Abbey’s Stampede

Stampede by naresh.fernandes

Taj Mahal Foxtrot was released at the Goa Literary Festival last week and will in the stores in a couple of days. The audio guide section of this website is now functional. It contains tracks that are discussed in the book. Each week, I’m going to highlight a different tune in this space. To begin with, here’s a recording by Leon Abby and the Savoy Bearcats called Stampede, which was made in 1926.

Regular readers of this site will know that Abbey, a violinist from Minnesota, caused a great deal of excitement when he performed in Bombay in 1935 because his outfit was the first “all-negro band” to play in India. Abbey didn’t make any recordings when he was in India, but here he is, directing his Savoy Bearcats a decade before he sailed for the subcontinent. The 1920s and ’30 were a period of rapid evolution for jazz, so his style had probably changed a great deal after this recording was made. He was the band’s director, which means that his violin isn’t heard here.

Category: 1935, Audio, Bombay, Jazz, Leon Abbey, Taj

The Pianist and the Python

Not so long ago, I bought an album by the trumpet player Bill Coleman, who had performed in Bombay during the 1936-’37 season as part of violinist Leon Abbey’s band. The earliest recordings on the collection were made just a few months after Coleman returned to Europe and I was delighted to see that one of the tracks was titled Back Home Again in India.

It turned out to be a tantalising typo. When I slipped the disc into my CD player, I realised that the tune was actually Back Home Again in Indiana, the song Coleman is performing in this clip. Nonetheless, it’s clear that India held a special place in the trumpet player’s heart. Fifty years after his engagement at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Coleman painted a vivid picture of the life he and his wife Beezie led during their six-month stay in Bombay in his excellent memoir, Trumpet Story.

A Jazzman in Satara

In the mid-1930s, drummer Oliver Tines was a regular member of Louis Armstrong’s band. (That him, hazily in the background, back in 1933.) He was a part of the trumpet player’s Harlem Hot Rhythm outfit and toured Europe with Armstrong. His name can be found in the credits of at least a dozen jazz recordings made in the 1920s and ’30s. So how did he end up spending his last days back of the beyond in Satara, 256 kilometres south of Bombay?

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