“It’s WHAT Like That?!” On Grey Gull

With lyrics that are racy, funny and at times liberatingly void of meaning, “It’s Tight Like That” was bound to be a hit. Composers Tampa Red (aka Hudson Whittaker, nee Woodbridge) and Georgia Tom (aka Thomas A.) Dorsey’s recording sold well and inspired several contrafacts by their fellow blues musicians. Jazz musicians added their own arrangements, rhythm, improvisations and personality to the tune itself.

McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra, Walter Barnes’s Royal Creolians and others didn’t keep all the naughty words. An Irving Mills-led edition of the Ben Pollack band without Pollack threw them out completely. Yet even with several stanzas intact, the Grey Gull House Band’s interpretation takes the tune further out than any other (listen below or click here):

It’s not just the breakneck tempo and machine gun attack. There’s a sense of abandon bordering on aggression, mixed with a sense of play, to this treatment. Mike Mosiello’s trumpet sets the mood: in both solo and lead, it’s loud, staccato, brash and at the same time warm and humorous. When Mosiello and trombonist Charlie Butterfield’s signals get crossed, the first notes of a trombone solo turn into a brass duet cum dogfight. That’s professionalism! Mosiello was already established as one of the most in-demand studio musicians of the time. It’s easy to reconcile the image of a disciplined session player and the sound of this unbridled powerhouse. The man was just versatile.

FromAMGdotComThe Grey Gull House Band, like any (good) house band, thrived upon versatility, having to adapt to a variety of musical settings according to the company/publisher/vocalist. That’s probably why Mosiello’s fellow Grey Gull sidemen Andy Sannella and Charlie Magnante sound so sincerely unbuckled, Sannella in a punchy alto saxophone solo without a hint of decorousness, Magnante’s accordion running rampant in the background.

Accordion, whistle and barnyard onomatopoeia may edge this performance into “novelty;” even the speed and feel veer on self-parody. Yet “performance” is the keyword here, a mixing bowl of jazz jam and vaudeville with a hint of the circus tent. Vaughn De Leath’s vaguely androgynous contralto crooning the blues is another interesting touch. When she glides up to hold a high note and the unidentified tuba player goes into pumping double-time, you can almost see Tampa Red and Georgia Tom shaking their heads. This blogger isn’t speculating whether it would be in disapproval or disbelief.

MosielloWithLopezCareOfBixographyDotCom

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2 thoughts on ““It’s WHAT Like That?!” On Grey Gull

  1. Jazz Oracle records are the creation of Toronto collectors John Wilby and Colin Bray.

    • Thanks reading and for noting that!

      For anyone unfamiliar with this label, they reissue some of the best jazz and hot dance music of the twenties and thirties in sterling sound and with great liner notes. Their website, with full catalog, is available at jazzoracle.com.

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