Live Jazz from the 1950’s this weekend with a double bill, live from Birdland in New York City on September 9,1952. Not together, though sharing the same stage, Slim Gaillard and Arthur Prysock. Starting off the set is the ultra-smoothe and mellow Arthur Prysock, who does several tasteful turns with some standards. Arthur Prysock was perfectly at home singing jazz, blues, or R&B, but his smooth-as-silk baritone made him a superbly effective (and underappreciated) pop crooner in the manner of his chief influence, Billy Eckstine. Prysock was born January 2, 1929, in Spartanburg, SC, and was the brother of saxophonist Red Prysock.
Next up is the inimitable, incomparable (their words, but mine too) Slim Gaillard and his trio. One of the most eccentric vocalists ever to hit the jazz scene, Slim Gaillard became a legendary cult figure thanks to his own privately invented jive dialect “vout,” a variation on hipster slang composed of imaginary nonsense words (“oreenie” and “oroonie” being two other examples). Gaillard’s comic performances, laid-back cool, and supremely silly songs made him a popular entertainer from the late ‘30s to the early ‘50s, especially on the West Coast, and several of his compositions became genuine hits, including “Flat Foot Floogie” and “Cement Mixer.” Versatility was not Gaillard’s stock in trade, but he was highly effective at what he did, and his musical ability as a singer, Charlie Christian-style guitarist, and boogie-woogie pianist was perhaps a bit overlooked in comparison to the novelty value of his music. He performed in New York frequently from 1951-53, and also participated in Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1953; a few years later, he was name-checked in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
And if you ever wondered how the word Wowtee got its start, here’s the man responsible.
Settle in for the next half-hour and turn up the volume for this 1952 broadcast from the NBC radio program Stars In Jazz.