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Monday, April 25, 2011

Claude Hopkins Part 1...........

Claude Hopkins

Claude Hopkins was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1903. Historians differ in respect of the actual date of his birth. His parents were on the faculty of Howard University. A highly talented stride piano player and arranger, he left home at the age of only 21 as a sideman with the Wilbur Sweatman Orchestra but stayed less than a year. In 1925, he left for Europe as the musical director of The Revue Negre which starred Josephine Baker with Sidney Bechet in the band.

He returned to the USA in 1927 where, based in Washington, he toured the TOBA circuit with The Ginger Snaps Revue before heading once again for NYC where he took over the band of Charlie Skeets. At this time (1932–36), he led a fairly successful Harlem band employing many jazz musicians who were later to become famous in their own right such as Edmond Hall, Jabbo Smith and Vic Dickenson (although it's worth noting that his records were arranged to feature his piano more than his band). This was his most successful period with long residencies at the Savoy and Roseland ballrooms and at the Cotton Club. In 1937 he took his band on the road with a great deal of success.

He broke up the band in 1940 and used his arranging talents working for several non-jazz band leaders and for CBS. In 1948/9 he led a "novelty" band briefly but took a jazz band into The Cafe Society in 1950. From 1951 up until his death, he remained in NYC working mostly as a sideman with other Dixieland bands playing at festivals and various New York clubs and recording. Often under-rated in later years, he was one of jazz's most important band leaders and has yet to be given full recognition for his achievements. He died on 19 February 1984, a disillusioned and dispirited man.

As popular as Hopkins' band was, it never achieved the high level of musical brilliance that Ellington, Henderson, Hines, Basie, Webb or Lunceford achieved. Besides Hopkins' piano being featured within the band, the high-pitched vocals of Orlando Roberson brought the band a good part of its popularity.

Often overlooked by historians, Claude Hopkins was a major contributor to the development of early jazz and swing music. He was an incredibly gentle yet powerful stride pianist who could perform both ballads and hot numbers with equal virtuosity. Hopkins also wrote and arranged many compositions of his own and in collaboration with other artists like J.C. Johnson and Bud Freeman.

Hopkins grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and learned to play piano at age seven. He studied music and medicine at Howard University, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree, and later attended the Washington Conservatory. He worked with several bands while in college and formed his own group in 1924 for an engagement in Atlantic City, after which he spent a brief period with Wilbur Sweatman before forming another group of his own.

In September of 1925 Hopkins traveled to Europe, where he became Josephine Baker's musical director, touring Europe with her revue. He then led his own band in Italy and Spain in 1926 before returning to the states in the spring of that year. He worked with several groups of his own until taking over Charlie Skeete's orchestra in 1930. Hopkins band was a regular performer at the Savoy Ballroom in 1930, the Roseland Ballroom from 1931 to 1935, and the Cotton Club in 1935 and 1936.

Hopkins recorded often during the early and mid-1930s but was silent from 1937 to late 1939, when he led the band on extensive tours. He entered the studio again in early 1940 for the AMMOR label. Vocalists for the band were Orlando Roberson, who was known for hitting the high notes, and trumpeter Ovie Alston. Standout musicians included clarinetist Ed Hall, trumpeter Jabbo Smith, saxophonist Bobby Sands, trombonists Vic Dickenson and Fernando Arbello. In the late 1930s Hopkins occasionally fronted the band, allowing other pianists to take his instrument.

In 1941 Hopkins reorganized the orchestra before disbanding it in late 1942. He led his own small groups for the next two years and also worked at the Eastern Aircraft factory in New Jersey. In 1944 Hopkins formed a new orchestra which lasted, in one form or another, until 1947. It did not record. He continued working with smaller groups throughout the 1940s and 1950s, appearing with Red Allen and Herman Autrey in the late 1950s and Sol Yaged in 1960. He led his own group again from 1960 to 1966 and played with Wild Bill Davidson's Jazz Giants in the late 1960s and Roy Eldridge in 1970. Hopkins mostly worked as a soloist in the latter part of his life, performing and recording up through the 1970s. Claude Hopkins passed away in 1984.

Here's a few tunes :)

Ain't misbehavin'
California here I come 
Canadian capers
Careless love
Chasing all the blues away
Church Street sobbin' blues
Crazy fingers
Do you ever think of me
Don't let your love go wrong
Harlem rhythm dance
He's a son of the South
Home cookin' mama
Honeysuckle Rose
Hopkin's scream
How much do you mean to me 
How'm I doin'
I let a tear fall in the river
I'd believe in you
In the shade of the old apple tree
Ja-da (ja-da ja-da jing-jing-jing)
June night
Junk Man's serenade
just you, just me
King Porter Stomp
Look who's here
Love in bloom
Low gravy


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