Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A little bit of Miff Mole's trombone...Part 1

Miff Mole

Irving Milfred Mole, better known as Miff Mole (11 March 1898 – 29 April 1961) was a jazz trombonist and band leader. He is generally considered as one of the greatest jazz trombonists and credited with creating "the first distinctive and influential solo jazz trombone style." His major recordings included "Slippin' Around", "Red Hot Mama" in 1924 with Sophie Tucker on vocals, "Miff's Blues", "There'll Come a Time (Wait and See)", on the film soundtrack to the 2008 movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and "Toddlin' Blues" and "Davenport Blues", recorded in 1925 with Bix Beiderbecke and Tommy Dorsey as Bix Beiderbecke and His Rhythm Jugglers.

Miff Mole was born in Roosevelt, New York. As a child, he studied violin and piano and switched to trombone when he was 15. He played in Gus Sharp's orchestra for two years and in the 1920s went on to become a significant figure of the New York scene: he was a member of the Original Memphis Five (1922), played with Russ Gorman, Roger Wolfe Kahn, Sam Lanin, Ray Miller and many others.  His other activities, like those of many jazz musicians at the time, included working for silent film and radio orchestras.  In 1926–9 Mole and trumpeter Red Nichols led a band called "Miff Mole and his Little Molers". They recorded frequently until 1930.
Miff Mole and his band the Molers backed Sophie Tucker who was known as "The Last Of The Red Hot Mammas" and who was one of the most popular singers of the Teens and 1920s. Mole and his band supported her on her 1927 Okeh recordings of "After You've Gone", "Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong", "I Ain't Got Nobody", and "One Sweet Letter From You". Miff Mole and his band, which included Eddie Lang, Jimmy Dorsey, Red Nichols, and Vic Berton, also backed her during her live performances.
In addition to the groups under his own name, Mole was prominently identified from 1925 to 1929 with various recording bands led by cornetist Red Nichols: The Red Heads, The Hottentots, The Charleston Chasers, The Six Hottentots, The Cotton Pickers, Red and Miff’s Stompers, and especially Red Nichols and his Five Pennies. These bands recorded for a variety of different labels such as Perfect, Domino, Pathé, Edison, OKeh and Victor, though the Five Pennies name was only used for their recordings on Brunswick. The original Five Pennies band consisted of Nichols on cornet, Mole on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Eddie Lang on guitar, Arthur Schutt on piano and Vic Berton (who came up with the name for the group) on drums, but over time the personnel changed and expanded dramatically. Among the musicians who passed through the Five Pennies were clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, violinist Joe Venuti, bass sax player Adrian Rollini, tuba and bass player Joe Tarto, trombonist-arranger Glenn Miller, and extra trumpet players such as Leo McConville and Charlie Teagarden.

When Jack Teagarden arrived in New York in 1928, he quickly replaced Mole as the new role model for trombonists, with a more legato, blues-oriented approach. Mole, having started working for radio in 1927 (at WOR), changed his focus to working with NBC (1929–38). In 1938–40 he was a member of Paul Whiteman's orchestra, but his style by then had changed under the influence of Teagarden. In 1942–3 Mole played in Benny Goodman's orchestra, and between 1942–7 he led various dixieland bands. He worked in Chicago in 1947–54.
Due to bad health, Mole played very sporadically during his last years. He became a regular at Nick's in Manhattan, where he played with Pee Wee Russell, Baby Dodds, and others.

Miff Mole died—broke—in New York City in 1961. A benefit gig to raise money for him took place just too late. He was buried in a pauper's grave. 

Mole’s solo style with its impeccable technique, including octave-leaps, shakes, and rapid fire cadenzas, had a profound effect on jazz trombone playing in his time. Among those who emulated Mole’s playing were white trombonists Bill Rank, Glenn Miller, and Tommy Dorsey, and black trombonist Jimmy Harrison. It may even be said that bop trombonist J.J. Johnson was, consciously or unconsciously, playing to some extent in Mole’s footsteps even though he exhibited an even more dazzling slide and lip technique.
In 2005, Miff Mole's 1928 recording of "Shim-Me-Sha-Wobble" with the Little Molers, originally as Okeh 41445, was used in the soundtrack to the Russell Crowe movie Cinderella Man.
In 2008, his composition "There'll Come a Time (Wait and See)", written with Wingy Manone, was on the soundtrack to the Academy Award-nominated movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

 Ok.....this one is a here and there list. I basically mean that it is an exposure to some of his work.  Mole's work dovetails in with a lot of other bands, so I'm sticking to just an overview, here.  I'm preparing another list of some Original Memphis Five, some Red Nichols, and a few other bands in the near future that will most likely include a lot of Mole on trombone.  Meanwhile, though, everything on here is some damned fine listening, here we go!! enjoy!!

**Good listening for a snowed in Chicago night....getting very bad out white out conditions, 50mph winds**

A hot time in the old town tonight 3-7-1927
After you've gone 9-24-1929
After you've gone w/ Sophie Tucker 4-11-1927
Alexander's rag time band 1-26-1927
Baby (from "Castles In The Air") (Roger Wolfe Kahn Orch, Joe Venuti, Miff Mole, V=Billy Jones) 1-25-1926
Birmingham Bertha (From Motion Picture-"On With The Show")  7-12-1929
Blue (McMurray's California Thumpers, Miff Mole, Phil Napoleon) 9-4-1922
Cause I feel low down w/ Sophie Tucker 1928
Charleston (Tennessee Tooters  Miff Mole OnTrombone-no Bix-) 8-12-1925
Clementine (Don Voorhees Orch, V=Irving Kaufmann, Miff Mole on trombone-no Bix) 1927
Corrinne Corrina 10-12-1930 (w/ Red Nichols' Five Pennies v=Wingy manone)
Crazy rhythm (From "Here's Howie") 7-27-1928
Cuddle up blues (Jazzbos Carolina Serenaders) 4-22-1922
Davenport blues 3-7-1927
Feeling no pain 8-30-1927
Fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong w/ Sophie Tucker 4-15-1927
Honolulu blues 9-1-1927
Hootin' de hoot (The Original Memphis Five-Frank Signorelli/Miff Mole/Phil Napoleon)
Hurricane 1-26-1927
I ain't got nobody w/ Sophie Tucker  4-11-1927
I can't break the habit of you 2-10-1937
I'm glad (The Sioux City Six) 10-11-1924
I've got a feeling I'm falling 4-19-1929
Imagination 8-30-1927
The Darktown Strutter's ball3-7-1927

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your blog.
    The photo of Miff looks as if he were a younger version of my grandfather. Not too dissimilar in age and they share their surname.