Saturday, June 18, 2005
"Get on out there and tell your lie," said Fats Waller,
exhorting Gene Sedric to solo on "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie"
Clarinetist and saxophonist Gene Sedric, born in St. Louis on June 17, 1907, isn't all that well-known these days, either by local music fans or the general public, but in his time, he had a long, successful and interesting career.
Sedric, nicknamed "Honey Bear" for his build and a camelhair coat he was fond of wearing, is best remembered as the reedman for Fats Waller and His Rhythm, performing and recording with the popular pianist from 1934 until 1942. He's on virtually every small-group recording Fats made during that time period, and even turns up on camera in three Soundies - a sort of proto-music video shown in movie theaters during the Forties - featuring Waller.
His contributions to Waller's music were numerous and substantial, but as these two brief biographies show, Sedric also worked with many others over the course of his career, from playing on riverboats in St. Louis with Fate Marable as a young man to touring, recording and working in New York clubs with a diverse assortment of well-known musicians in the latter part of his career.
Before he died on April 3, 1963 in New York, Sedric had recorded only a handful of solo sides. Some appear to have been reissued in 2002 on a small collector's label called Chronological Classics as Gene Sedric 1938-47, but despite finding two different catalog numbers on the Web for the CD - 1181 and 71181 - I couldn't determine for sure if it's still in print. (If anyone reading this knows a good online resource for this sort of information, please let me know in the comments or via email.)
Fortunately, Gene Sedric's recordings with Fats Waller are still readily available. Just check out the selection of Waller CDs at your favorite retailer, look for one featuring Fats' small group (not solo or with a large band) and it's almost certain to feature a number of Sedric performances. Or, courtesy of the Red Hot Jazz site, you can read more about Waller and the band and hear some of their music in Real Audio format right here.
And even though there's not a large amount of detailed material on the Web about Gene Sedric, I did learn three fascinating bits of trivia about him in the course of researching this post:
1) Some historians of jazz organ have noted Sedric as a sort of connective tissue in the instrument's history in the music, since the reedman performed both with Fate Marable, who "was known for playing the steam calliope on Mississippi riverboats during the early years of the century," and with Waller, who's credited with introducing the organ to jazz in the 1930s.
2) The great Coleman Hawkins is usually credited as the first musician to record and release an unaccompanied solo saxophone performance. His recording of "Picasso," said to be yet another set of variations on the changes to "Body and Soul," came out in 1948 and for years has been considered the historic predecessor and inspiration for the many solo saxophone recordings made beginning in the 1960s and continuing until the present day. But it turns out that Gene Sedric waxed a little ditty called "Saxophone Doodle" all by his lonesome way back in 1937. How about them apples?
3) One of Sedric's clarinet students became quite famous, though not especially for his work as a musician. In the early Sixties, Sedric gave some music lessons to a young New York writer, comedian, aspiring filmmaker and old-time jazz buff named Allen Stewart Konigsberg, better known these days as Woody Allen.
Posted by Dean Minderman at 1:42 AM