Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

Eddie Condon and his Band “unidentified title”

There are, sad to say, very few examples of jazz filmed live in theater, ballroom or nightclub settings during the period 1930-1950. Most of what we do have is from the various newsreel services. In 1944, the March of Time cobbled together a release titled UPBEAT IN MUSIC, using footage from their vaults as well as newly filmed material. The result is a featurette covering the music scene, both popular and classical, during the middle of the Second World War. (This short was later re-edited and sold to home movie collectors under the title of MUSIC IN AMERICA.)

As the producers decided what to film for the short, an almost mandatory stop was Eddie Condon’s. Condon’s was one of the most important jazz clubs in New York City, featuring the best in Chicago-style Dixielend jazz. In 1944 the club had yet to make the move to 52nd Street, and was located in Greenwich Village.

In many cases, raw production footage has turned up from March of Time newsreels, but unfortunately not in this case. But in this short newsreel performance we do have some of the only known footage of drummer Dave Tough, an inventive and highly-respected musician who was able to drive the Condon combo and, without missing a beat, propel the Benny Goodman or Woody Herman big band.

The band seen on screen is jamming on basic blues changes, and is typical of the groups that played Condon’s club. The personnel includes Wild Bill Davison, trumpet, Brad Gowans, valve trombone; Tony Parenti, clarinet; Gene Schroeder, piano; Eddie Condon, guitar; Jack Lesberg, string bass; Dave Tough, drums.

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