“Puddle Wump” (1949) Tommy Dorsey with Boomie Richman, Charlie Shavers and Louis Bellson

“Puddle Wump”

Composed and arranged by Charlie Shavers.

Recorded by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra for RCA Victor on March 11,1949 in New York.

Tommy Dorsey, first trombone; directing: Charlie Shavers, Jack Dougherty, Chris Griffin, Chuck Peterson and Vern Arslan, trumpets; Buddy Morrow, Nick DeMaio and Dick Noel, trombones; Sid Cooper, first alto saxophone; Billy Ainsworth, alto saxophone; Abraham “Boomie” Richman and Livio “Babe” Fresk, tenor saxophones; Marty Berman, baritone saxophone; Paul Smith, piano; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Norman Seelig, bass; Louis Bellson, drums.

The story:

Although Tommy Dorsey was known as the sentimental gentleman of swing, a catchphrase that was undoubtedly devised in the marketing department of his booking agency, Music Corporation of America, throughout his career as a bandleader, he demonstrated time and again that he was very serious about the swing part of that catchphrase. In the late 1940s, Tommy’s main swing associates were drummer Louis Bellson, who proudly carried the mantle of the pyrotechnic drum soloist in the mode of Buddy Rich, and was a superb ensemble drummer as well, and nimble and light-toned jazz tenor saxophonist Boomie Richman. These two musicians were reliable sources of jazz and swing excitement, and TD featured them generously. But the most prominent jazz soloist in the Tommy Dorsey band from the mid-1940s until Tommy’s untimely death in November of 1956 was the virtuoso trumpeter Charlie Shavers (1920-1971). (Above right: Boomie Richman and Louis Bellson – late 1940s.)

To say that Shavers was an exciting musician would be an understatement. He possessed a full, rich, ringing trumpet sound in all registers of the horn. His technique on the trumpet was second to none. He was a superb first trumpeter, and a spectacular soloist. In addition, he possessed an irrepressible spirit, as a trumpeter, as a sometimes singer, and as a human being. As if this were not enough, Shavers was also a fine arranger.

As an indispensable part of this post, I have attached a link to a delightful interview in which the godfather of jazz historians, Dan Morgenstern, shared his recollections of Charlie Shavers with jazz historian Michael Steinman.(1) Here are a number of Dan’s descriptions of Shavers: “Charlie was irrepressible.” “He was an electrifying trumpet player.” “He had absolutely phenomenal technique and great imagination.” “I never caught Charlie on a bad night.” “Tommy Dorsey loved Charlie. He featured him very well as both a trumpeter and as a vocalist.” “He was so quick musically…” About Charlie’s demeanor as a leader on the bandstand, presumably while gazing upon a beautiful woman… “‘She flew through the air with the greatest of ease, while eating some spareribs and fine black-eyed peas.'” “Charlie was a blithe spirit. He could make you happy by just coming into a room.” (Above left: Charlie Shavers in the early 1950s.)

The music:

Happy, joyful and swinging are three adjectives that definitely describe the music one hears when listening to “Puddle Wump.” The introduction has the bright straight-muted trumpets atop a contrasting cushion of low register saxophone section and trombone chords. The first and second choruses (this is a fast-moving twelve-bar blues) contain the melody, played by Charlie Shavers on his Harmon-muted trumpet in unison with tenor saxophonist Boomie Richman.  Once again, the sound of their instruments is contrasted with that of the low saxophones and trombones. The second chorus is played at a slightly lower dynamic level than the first. Notice drummer Louis Bellson’s use of his twin bass drums in these choruses (and throughout this performance).  It adds kick to this recording. This two voice combination presaged the use of it as a front-line feature throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s by many jazz groups. (Above right: Tommy Dorsey poses with some of his sidemen – late 1940s: L-R: Vern Arslan, Vito “Mickey” Mangano, TD, Charlie Shavers and Louis Bellson.)

A bright transition played by the straight-muted trumpets catapults the trombone section, led by TD and playing rhythmically, through the next chorus. This is followed by a gliding saxophone section soli for one chorus. Lead alto saxophonist Sid Cooper sets the pace here.

Then come the solos: Shavers plays his Harmon-muted trumpet with great rhythmic intensity and swing for three choruses. He builds the music and tells a story, all done with dazzling trumpet virtuosity. His solo is followed by two equally bracing choruses played by tenor saxophonist Boomie Richman. Richman’s rhythmic approach, though every bit as intense as Shavers’s, nevertheless reflects Boomie’s admiration for the gliding swing of tenor titan Lester Young. (Above left Abraham “Boomie” Richman.)

Riffs aplenty, with Shavers playing lead trumpet against rolling saxophones, fill out the last two choruses.

Post script: Although Charlie Shavers worked very much of the time from the mid-1940s through the mid-1950s with Tommy Dorsey, he also worked in many other settings, including doing studio work. In that setting, he worked with dozens of trumpet players who were amazed by his unflagging zest as a performer, as well as his amazing trumpet technique. One of the trumpeters he worked with often was Billy Butterfield, who possessed many of the same trumpet-playing gifts as Shavers. As Billy got older, young trumpeters frequently asked him for advice. The first admonition he would dispense to all young trumpet Turks was: never trade fours with Charlie Shavers!

Trumpeters’ conclave New York City – early 1960s. In the front row from left to right are: Buck Clayton, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Shavers. How many of the others can you name?

The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes and links:

(1) Here is a wonderful recollection of Charlie Shavers by Dan Morgenstern, jazz scholar and historian supreme, captured for posterity by jazz historian and blogger Michael Steinman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLS2FAhLd6Y

Thanks Dan and Michael!

Here are some links to other posts here at swingandbeyond.com that will showcase the many talents of Charlie Shavers:






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