SAN FRANCISCO, with its strong artistic tradition, is closely associated with the whole story of jazz. Musicians from NEW ORLEANS played it there before even 1920s (in particular JELLY ROLL MORTON from 1917) and propagated their music there.
But it is especially at the end of 1930s when the contribution of SAN FRANCISCO was determining. At that time, Californian musicians, avid to break with the style of big bands swing which dominated then, met in an inn, the BIG BEAR, where they tried to resuscitate NEW ORLEANS Jazz.
Foremost of them, the cornet player / trumpeter LU WATTERS (1911-1989) gave life to this project by creating in 1940 the YERBA BUENA JAZZ BAND which included: LU WATTERS, BOB SCOBEY (tp), TURK MURPHY (tb), ELLIS HORNE or BOB HELM (cl), WALLY ROSE (p), HARRY MORDECAI or RUSS BENNET or CLANCY HAYES (bjo), SQUIRE GIRSBACK or DICK LAMMI (tuba) and BILL DART (drums).
The originality of this group consisted in its instrumentation: two cornets or trumpets as in KING OLIVER'S CREOLE BAND, tuba and banjo, instruments which had hardly been used since the end of the 20s but also in the choice of the themes (repertoire of KING OLIVER, JELLY ROLL MORTON, LOUIS ARMSTRONG’s HOT FIVE and HOT SEVEN ...), as well as the great attention given to the various musical elements of the pieces as the verses (that the middle jazz of the 30s had tended to forget), modulations, "breaks”, ... and all this by favoring the collective improvisation as in the first decades of the jazz.
Individually, the musicians of the YERBA BUENA JAZZ BAND were inspired by OLIVER/ARMSTRONG, JOHNNY DODDS, KID ORY ... This return to basics created a big interest in the musical community of SAN FRANCISCO.
The band settled down in the DAWN CLUB where it got a phenomenal success by playing for dancers until 1942, a moment when the musicians were called up for military service.
The band was reconstituted in 1945 and played until 1950 with some changes in personnel, creating numerous emulators in the United States but also somewhere else in the world (Graeme Bell in Australia …). Lu Watters retired from the musical scene in 1950. It was then Turk Murphy (1915-1987) who took up the torch.
If LU WATTERS had well been the "boss" of the musical adventure of the YERBA BUENA, MURPHY's contribution to the sound, to the impact and to the color of the band had been essential. TURK created his own band in 1949 and became the leader of the “traditional style” (it is to him that we owe this term) in the UNITED STATES with a considerable success during almost forty years.
auteur de AIN'T THEY SYNCOPATIN' !
1997 BAKER PRESS AUCKLAND