This recording of the Phoenix Jazz Band was made at the Central Ohio Jazz Festival in 1990 and features George James on saxophone, band leader Bob Walter on trumpet, Coleman Hankins on clarinet and your editor on piano, among others.
George James was 84 years old at the time and had to be helped to the stage. Once he got there it was a different story as is apparent on the cut. He had sixty recordings behind him and had been a regular with both Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. The tune we played was the Apex Blues written by Jimmy Noone in honor of the second floor Apex Club on the south side of Chicago where Noone had an orchestra in the 1920s. The club was raided and closed in 1930 by federal agents enforcing prohibition. One of those who played with Noone was Earl ‘Father’ Hines. Another was George James who played in Noone’s group before going on the road with Louis Armstrong.
We played just two tunes with James – the other was Misty – but for a stride piano player like myself to go even eight bars with one of Fats Waller’s sidemen is about as close to heaven as one can reasonably expect to get. And who would have guessed it would happen in Columbus Ohio? But, then, as Fats used to say, “One never knows, do one?”