JJ 02/61: In My Opinion – Jimmy Skidmore

Sixty years ago saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore had good words for Armstrong, Ellington and Quincy and was particularly taken by Ray Charles. First published in Jazz Journal February 1961


This is one of a series of taped interviews with musicians, who are asked to give a snap opinion on a set of records played to them. Although no previous information is given as to what they are going to hear, they are, during the actual playing, handed the appropriate record sleeve. Thus in no way is their judgment influenced by being unaware of what they are hearing. As far as possible the records played to them are currently available items procurable from any record shop. Jimmy Skidmore has for long been known as one of the best out-and-out jazz musicians in Great Britain. His tenor saxophone has been a feature of more good jazz groups than perhaps he would care to remember and for the past few years has been a strong prop of the Humphrey Lyttelton Band. It is interesting to note that his son, now eighteen years of age, is following closely in his father’s footsteps and is even now a saxophonist of more than usual talents. Since leaving the Lyttelton group, Jimmy has been gigging around, and is, according to him, now busily engaged on a mammoth musical opus to be entitled On The Dole Blues. – Sinclair Traill

“Backstairs”. Harold Ashby (“Born To Swing”). Columbia 33SX 1257
That’s my kind of tenor playing, yes, yes! Obviously strongly influenced by Ben Webster, but there is quite a lot of Lucky Thompson in there too – those high notes need a lot of control. And yet the whole composite style is unique and something quite different. I must admit that I had never heard of Ashby before, but we musicians are an ignorant lot you know. I heard a wonderful tenor player in the States who I didn’t know before. Hal Singer was playing at the Metropole with Gene Sedric, a tremendous player with great, big fat tone and all the business. Incidentally, should have men­tioned Jimmy Jones and Oliver Jackson from that record. Jones is the perfect pianist for this kind of intimate stuff, and Jackson one of the most tasteful drummers to have come up for many years.

“Drop That Sack”. Louis Armstrong (Satchmo Plays King Oliver). Audio Fidelity AFLP 1930
It is extraordinary that Louis can play like that after so many years – what a high standard he sets. And so consistent, playing every night and always on the move from one country to another. Reckon he’d make a good King of the World would Louis – get a giggle from everyone, no quarrels. But seriously that is a lovely refreshing sound he still makes. The rhythm is much better than when I last heard the band, and it is all very simple, so easy to listen to. There’s a tradition there that everyone should know about.

“Boneyard Blues”. Ian Menzies Clyde Valley Stampers. Pye NJL 26
Well, that was not a record I’d buy, but there was nothing wrong with it. It’s just not my style. They play nicely in tune and without divulging any secrets I would say this is a much better band than some other more famous traditional outfits that I could name -but won’t! Trombone was good and clean, the rhythm quite steady and I liked that little riff they played at the end. It had quite a modern sound. I should say that would be a cracking band to listen to after one had had a few pints at the local.

“Hard Times” Ray Charles (“Fathead”). London LTZ-K 15178
Well, I liked that from the very first note. Ray Charles and his band. New names to me – unless you have the time (and dough) to listen to records all the time there is so much you can miss. Of course I have heard Ray Charles as a blues singer and pianist and place him as the very best of all the modern singers, but it was the alto (David Newman) who threw me there. What a blower! That production method is very difficult, you have to be very sure of yourself and your instrument. Very tasteful and don’t that rhythm section go! Trumpet tone was a little on the thin side, but all-in-all that was just my type of music. Must buy that one.

“Squeeze Me” Ellington-Hodges (“Side By Side”). Columbia CLP 1374
What a musician! Duke is known as the foremost composer and arranger in jazz, but do people realise what a pianist he is. Those lovely intervals, that sense of time – and incidentally what humour. It is a good tune for improvisation, and doesn’t Edison take advantage of it. And then of course Hodges; what can one say about him? Everything he does is just right – his instrument seems to be a part of himself. He doesn’t alter much, but then he doesn’t have to – he’s the master. Incidentally, did you catch Duke’s piano behind Hodge’s second chorus – play that again, it’s unbelievably tasteful. What chords! Wonder who thought up that coda? Bet it was Duke.

“Cherokee” Quincy Jones (“Great Wide World”). Mercury CMS 18031
What a pity that band had to break up. Quincy is a great arranger, he gets that full rich sound from a band. Art Farmer was great, he seems to be playing much easier these days. Not so far out, and his tone has improved. That scoring for guitar is something quite new, but it’s most entertaining. Some­how this band reminds me of the old Lunceford band. Perfectly drilled, yet playing with fire and enthusiasm.

“Sweet Georgia Brown”. Jean Goldkette. Camden SND 5014
Well, that was a happy old sound. Not a care in the world. That unison trumpet chorus really went like a train, bags of guts too. Must be good reading men. It is wonderful how someone like Sy Oliver can pick up an idiom like that and write such scores. It couldn’t have been Oliver’s idea of jazz, yet he has done the job to perfection. Lot of good, sound men in the band I see. The trombone solo was a good one. Urbie Green, you think? I don’t really know if it is necessary to reproduce the stuff those bands played, but if it has to be done, then this is certainly the way to do it.