Big Sid Catlett: 1944-46

Back in January, I posted on drummers Gene Krupa and Big Sid Catlett, whose styles were quite similar in their sharp, swinging tap-dance attack. As noted then, Catlett was one of the most influential and dynamic drummers of the 1940s. Sadly, he died in 1951, which means his entire career was spent in the 78rpm era, and his clutch of leadership sessions were recorded only between 1944 and 1946.

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In 1944, these included four sides for Commodore, featuring Ben Webster (ts), Marlowe Morris (p) and John Simmons (b) (Sleep, Linger Awhile, Memories of You and Just a Riff). and two more with the same group for Onyx (1-2-3 Blues and I’ve Found a New Baby).

Next came Sidney Catlett and the Regis All Stars (for Regis Records), featuring Charlie Shavers (tp), Edmond Hall (cl), Frank Socolow (ts), Eddie Heywood (p) and Oscar Pettiford (b) (Blues in Room 920, Sweet Georgia Brown and Blue Skies).

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The same group, minus Hall, recorded two more as Sid Catlett and the Big City Jazzmen (Blue Skies and Thermo-Dynamics). Then in January 1945, Big Sid Catlett’s Band recorded four sides for Capitol in Los Angeles. The band featured Joe Guy (tp), Bull Moose Jackson (as), Bumps Myers and Illinois Jacquet (ts), Horace Henderson (p), Al Casey (g) and John Simmons (b). The tracks were I Never Knew; Love for Sale; Just You, Just Me and Henderson Romp.

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Finally, in 1946, Catlett recorded for the Manor label with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (ts), Bill Gooden (org,celeste,vcl), Pete Johnson (p), Jimmy Shirley (g) and Gene Ramey (b). They recorded Organ Boogie, Organ blues, Sherry Wine Blues, Open the Door Richard, Shirley’s Boogie and Humoresque Boogie. Of the bunch, Sherry Wine Blues is most fascinating, pairing Davis, the blues modernist with boogie-woogie pianist Johnson topped by Gooden’s celeste.

The reason I provided so much detail above is because you’re going to need it. The tracks are available on The Chronological Sid Catlett, 1944-1946, which runs around $84. But if you simply want to listen to them, you can hear the complete album at YouTube. Here are Catlett’s leadership sessions above (plus Sometimes I’m Happy and How High the Moon led by Al Casey and His Sextet for Capitol with Gerald Wilson on piano, Willie Smith on alto sax, Illinois Jacquet on tenor sax, Horace Henderson on piano, Al Casey on guitar, John Simmons on bass and Catlett on drums; the album opens with Rose Room in 1944, a V-disc of the Esquire Metropolitan Opera House Jam Session featuring Barney Bigard on clarinet, Art Tatum on piano, Al Casey on guitar, Oscar Pettiford on bass and Catlett on drums, with writer George Simon announcing)…

A special thanks to Doug Paterson.