The “Mellow Cats’n’Kittens” series has been a pleasure for me to work on during the past few years. I’d always admired my late friend and colleague Ray Topping’s work on the Modern catalogue and I’ve tried to maintain and build on what he started. While I don’t pretend to have Ray’s dedicated appreciation of discographical minutiae, I’d like to think that, with this and a host of other projects, I’ve also done my bit to keep alive the wonderful productions of the Modern Music Company’s founder, Jules Bihari.
For the fifth volume in the series, we’ve taken the opportunity to complete the digitisation of the Modern discographies of several artists who have appeared on previous volumes, such as the Three Bits Of Rhythm and Felix Gross. We’re also premiering tracks by mainstays of the Modern catalogue that were previously thought lost (Jimmy Witherspoon’s first solo Modern track, ‘Motel’) or were undiscovered until relatively recently (our Hadda Brooks track, located on the back of a Smokey Hogg acetate).
There are quality cuts by past contributors such as Sylvester “Big Duke” Henderson, the equally “Big” Jim Wynn, Herb Fisher and Johnny Alston’s Orchestra – all fine purveyors of the kind of music that lit up Central Avenue in the decade immediately following the end of WWII. Our other points of call include Houston, Texas, where we take in selections from Gory (sic) Carter’s lone Modern session, before heading south west to New Orleans for a cut by the George Alexander band that was originally disguised as the work of Ramp Davis. Back on the west coast we feature the great boogie pianist Pete “P.K.” Johnson rollin’ ’em just as he did for so long with Big Joe Turner, and jazz guitar/vocal group legend Teddy Bunn jamming with a hot trio led by Kansas City piano king Jay McShann. For those who, like me, couldn’t experience the era personally, or the venues from which music like this poured seven nights a week, it’s the next best thing to being there.
As ever, deeper research has allowed us to include a copious amount of previously unissued recordings to add further spice to what is already a potent mix – 9 in total. Although this is the fifth instalment of “Mellow Cat’n’Kittens”, the contents are as strong as on any previous volume – and there’s still plenty of quality vintage Modern repertoire slated for reissue in the next few years.
Jump you some boogie? We certainly can, man!
By Tony Rounce