One of the most important jazz artists of the 1940s was Louis Jordan. An African American bandleader whose music crossed over to white audiences, Jordan played in a wild, swinging, up-to-date and often humorous manner that is seen as one of the foundations of rhythm and blues. He recorded hit after hit with lyrics that were funny, hip, up-to-date, and often misogynistic. Combining all of the “basics” of swing music with the blues of the South, where he was born, Jordan’s music is indeed a joy.
Berle Adams was Jordan’s manager when this Soundie was made and he recounted this story: [So much in demand was the Louis Jordan Tympany Five], only one location, Kansas City’s Pendergast Memorial Auditorium, was able to book the band for more than one night a year because it had both air conditioning (for a July 4 performance) and indoor heating (for a Thanksgiving appearance). When a booking error led to both Jordan and Lionel Hampton’s band being scheduled at the same time in Kansas City, a ‘battle of the bands’ was quickly arranged. One week later, Hampton, back in New York, spoke with Jack Kapp of Decca Records. Adams paraphrased Hampton saying, “I just had a band battle in Kansas City with Louis Jordan. Joe Glaser [Hampton’s manager] had me go on first. I finished with ‘Flying Home,’ and we played for ten minutes or so, with the screaming brass and Illinois Jacquet blowing higher and higher. Then Louis Jordan walked out, just him and the rhythm section—no brass—sang a blues, and cut my ass.”
I am a huge fan of Louis Jordan’s music, and fortunately he made a large number of Soundies. “Five Guys Named Moe” is one of the best. Louis used this tune as a tenor sax feature – alto was his usual instrument – and we begin and end with the ““Big Moe, Little Moe, Four-Eyed Moe” routine developed by the bands string bass player, Dallas Bartley. Eddie Roane takes the trumpet solo, with rhythmic support provided by pianist Arnold Thomas and drummer Eddie Byrd. This one swings from beginning to end!