Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

The Ali Baba Trio “Your Feet’s Too Big”

The Ali Baba Trio was headed by Cleveland Nickerson, a jazz accordion player born in in Illinois, ca. 1917 or 1918. In 1940 Nickerson was leading a trio billed as The Music Masters. By the mid 1940s his sidemen included were Rubin (also Reuben) (Mike) “Big Mike” McKendrick and Calvin Ponder. Guitarist McKendrick (cousin of Mike “Little Mike” Mckendrick) had been an important part of the Chicago jazz scene in the late 1920s, recording with Tiny Parham, then spending two years with the Louis Armstrong band organized and “led” by Zilner Randolph. Mississippi-born Calvin Ponder joined the group on string bass. He would later marry and perform with pianist Martha Davis.

In late 1945 the trio began playing the Zanzibar Room at the Florentine Gardens in Hollywood. It was during this time that they appeared in a series of SOUNDIES for R.C.M. Production. They are featured in two, and this short, YOUR FEET’S TOO BIG, is one of them. While Fats Waller’s recordings and SOUNDIE come to mind when the song is mentioned, this performance swing from beginning to end, and is a wonderful reminder of the depth of black musical talent working in Los Angeles during this period.

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