“Dixieland Shuffle” (1937)

Composed by Gil Rodin and Bob Haggart; arranged by Bob Haggart.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra for Brunswick on February 17, 1937 in New York.

Bunny Berigan, first and solo trumpet, directing: Harry Greenwald and Harry Brown, trumpets; Ford Leary, trombone; Hymie Shertzer, first alto saxophone; Julian “Matty” Matlock, alto saxophone and clarinet; Art Drelinger, tenor saxophone; Les Burness, piano; Tommy Morgan, guitar; Arnold Fishkind, bass; Manny Berger, drums.

The story:

“Dixieland Shuffle” is precisely the kind of music that would have appealed to Bunny Berigan, and brought out the best in his playing. Among swing era bandleaders, Berigan recorded perhaps the largest proportion of classic jazz tunes. He undoubtedly had heard King Oliver’s record of the tune “Dixieland Shuffle” was based on, “Riverside Blues,” featuring Louis Armstrong, as a boy. Historian Richard M. Sudhalter attributed the arrangement Berigan played on this recording to Matty Matlock (1), and this might seem to be reasonable since Matlock, who was a very capable arranger, was then in Bunny’s band. However, this tune, which is ascribed to Gil Rodin and Bob Haggart, in almost the same arrangement, had been recorded by Bob Crosby’s band on April 13, 1936. Brian Rust’s discography attributes the arrangement used for that recording to Bob Haggart.(2) Since Haggart excelled at reorchestrating recordings that had been made previously (often by Louis Armstrong) for the Crosby band, I am of the opinion that he did indeed write this arrangement.

Regardless of who wrote it, it was a good piece of music, and the newly formed Berigan band plays it well. There were two takes made. Upon issuance of the record in May of 1937, it received a positive review in Down Beat.

The music:

What is interesting about this performance is that Bunny Berigan, a trumpet virtuoso who specialized in romping, swaggering, bravura jazz solos, plays solo in this piece quietly and melodically with a cup mute in the bell of his trumpet. The mood he creates is quiet and meditative. It made no difference if the Berigan horn was played muted or open, the music that came out was always richly expressive, as it most certainly is here.

Matty Matlock (shown at right), follows Berigan playing his clarinet in its woody chalumeau (low) register. Bunny’s open trumpet defines the rhythmic brass ensembles after Matlock’s solo, as do the three clarinets, in a most pleasing blend. Trombonist Ford Leary plays simply within a small compass of notes, but expressively, and is backed toward the end of his solo by organ chords from the three clarinets.

Listen also for the arco (bowed) bass, played throughout this performance by Arnold Fishkind, and the startlingly ethereal piano notes that float out of Les Burness’s piano just after Matlock’s second clarinet solo and before the climactic Berigan-warmed ensemble passage begins.

The recording presented in this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

(1) Mosaic Berigan set: 18.

(2) Jazz and Ragtime Records (1897–1942), by Brian Rust, Mainspring Press (2002), 401. The arrangement of “Dixieland Shuffle”that was recorded by the Bob Crosby band was also attributed to Bob Haggart by John Chilton in his excellent book Stomp Off, Let’s Go—The Story of Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats and Big Band; Jazz Book Service (1983), 31. Bassist/composer/arrganger Bob Haggart (Robert Sherwood Haggart) was born on March 13, 1914, in New York City. One of the most popular members of the Bob Crosby band (1935–1942), he arranged many numbers in that band’s repertiore. He was also a composer of note, writing “What’s New?” “South Rampart Street Parade,” “My Inspiration,” and “Big Noise from Winnetka,” which was an unusual duet for bass and drums. Beginning in 1942, Haggart entered the radio and recording studios of New York, remaining there for the next twenty-five years as a freelance musician. In the late 1960s he began coleading (and arranging for) a nine-piece band that was called the World’s Greatest Jazzband with trumpeter Yank Lawson, with whom he had worked in the Crosby band. This band found success playing music much in the manner of the original Bob Crosby band, with a few more modern sounding arrangements sprinkled in. From approximately 1980, Haggart performed as a freelance, traveling widely. Bob Haggart died on December 2, 1998, in Venice, Florida.

2 thoughts on ““Dixieland Shuffle” (1937)

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  1. I heard Bob Crosby’s version first, and love it — for the bluesy arrangement and excellent solos, from Matty Matlock, Eddie Miller and Nappy Lamare (some of Nappy’s best work). The band’s very fine and distinctive sections were always able to bring to vivid life Haggart’s clever big band recreations of the Armstrong and Oliver small group jazz tunes. However, I prefer Bunny’s slower take, much more atmospheric than the amiable and typical Crosby rendering. As always, Bunny manages to set the tone of the performance with one note from his trumpet. He opens contemplatively and with the blues feeling that, as Armstrong’s greatest admirer, is always present in his work. Effective as Matty’s famed chalumeau tone on the Crosby rendition is, I find it more expressive here, as he perfectly follows the mood that Bunny established. Even Ford Leary, probably better remembered today for his good-natured rhythm vocals with various big bands — Berigan, Clinton, Barnet — than for his trombone playing, delivers a compactly emotive twelve bars. Arnold Fishkind’s limber bowed bass seems to serve as a grieving Greek chorus of one. The surprise for me is that it is the ensemble work, both in the foreground and in support of the solos, that really sets this version apart from Crosby’s. The ruminative, indolent tempo, the subtle dynamics and that still more pronounced syncopated hitch, played by the brass behind the clarinet choir in the second theme all contribute to the ambiance. Finally, with Matty’s brief reappearance, the Berigan-led brass creates a sense of expectation, as if something is about to happen or decisive action is about to be taken. As the record closes, we can only let our minds wander and wonder what will happen next, but we can be grateful to have been given a precious few moments of deep thought, rendered by master artists who knew how to convey and portray emotion with their music.

    Yes, I’ve always noticed that Bunny seemed to favor the warhorses or trad classics — presumably because of his fondness for Louis’ influential ’20’s work, with King Oliver and his own Hot Five and Hot Seven. Of course, there is abundant evidence of Bunny’s ability to handle adroitly and imaginatively any harmonic curves thrown by more sophisticated fare, as found in the Great American Songbook. Perhaps the blues in so much of the trad material, the Armstrong records of his youth as an aspiring jazz trumpeter, just resonated most strongly.

  2. Having never heard this recording before, I was immediately struck by the similarities between it, and Dean Kinkaide’s chart of “Tin Roof Blues” for Tommy Dorsey, the following year, particularly the recurrent brass figures behind the soloists. If DK hadn’t heard this, and taken it on board, I’d be surprised.
    That said, if I were to choose between the two, I would take this, for its “honesty” alone.

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