In Volume 7 of a continuing series, Rare Cuts - Well Done
, Jazz Crusade offers a glimpse of the career of Omer Simeon
. Omer Simeon (1902-1959) is one of those New Orleans names that people speak in respectful tones. Simeon was always an underrated clarinetist. Perhaps it was because he often found himself stifled by the constrictions of the large orchestras he played with including Lunceford, Earl Hines, Fletcher Henderson and Coleman Hawkins. His importance was, in part, certified by Jelly Roll Morton who called Simeon his favorite clarinetist. Jelly was not one to throw out compliments freely. Anyone who has heard the Morton trio recording of Shreveport Stomp will admit that Omer Simeon stole the show and overshadowed the leader.
An early student of Lorenzo Tio Jr., Simeon later fell under the spell of Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Noone. Born in New Orleans, the young clarinetist moved to Chicago with his family at the age of twelve. It was there that he developed and was employed by Charlie Elgar’s Creole Orchestra then made his first recordings with Jelly Roll in 1927 and 1928. The Jazz Crusade CD takes over at this point in Simeon’s career.
The late summer of 1929 found Omer Simeon in the Brunswick studio with Earl Hines, bassist Hayes Alvis and drummer Wallace Bishop. The quartet turned out Smokehouse Blues
returning the following month for a trio recording of Beau Koo Jack
. In the early days of jazz discography, the pianist on the sessions was thought to be William Barbee or Earl Fraser. A later session in 1929 finds Simeon in septet format with two cornets and another reedman, Cecil Irwin. Omer doubles on alto sax and clarinet to turn out Story Book Ball, Easy Riders
, The Chant
and Tiny Parham’s Congo Love Song
. The latter piece features some nice cornet work by Shirley Clay and George Mitchell.
Tracks seven and eight offer Novelty Blues
and Tickle Britches Blues
featuring the clarinetist with Richard M.Jones’ Jazz Wizards.
The 9th track finds Simeon in full flight with a burning solo on Nagasaki
in the Paul Mares Friars Society orchestra. It’s a piping hot band with great solo activity by trumpeter Mares, clarinetist Simeon, alto man Boyce Brown and the energetic Jess Stacy on piano. This band performs four great pieces and it’s a nice opportunity to hear trombonist Roy Palmer show his stuff on The Land Of Dreams
In 1945 Omer Simeon, James P.Johnson and George "Pops" Foster put a recording unit together for the Disc
label. They called the group "The Carnival Three." All four sides produced in the studio are included on this new CD. This is possibly the first time Lorenzo’s Dream, Harlem Hotcha, Creole Lullaby
and Bandana Days
have appeared on compact disc. Creole Lullaby is a particular gem.
Finally, all hell breaks loose! A final trio session places Simeon in the studio with New Orleans born drummer Zutty Singleton
and blues piano specialist Sammy Price
. Six classic 1954 performances resulted from the happy association of these great musicians. Sammy Price is, as always, a master of lowdown blues, Simeon tempts and tickles with his delicate notes. Jazz Crusade kingpin, Big Bill Bissonnette
calls Singleton one of the most musical of drummers. "He’s one of few drummers you can sing along with!" It’s true. Just listen to his solo on Bill Bailey. The final trio sides are alone worth the price of this CD.
The balance of Omer Simeon’s colorful career was spent with the remarkable Wilbur De Paris
band until his retirement in 1957 and subsequent death in 1959.