After looking at a hot off the press release from Twenty One Pilots in my last post, let’s pivot back over 65 years to one of the earliest Columbus-centric releases. Issued in 1955, just as vinyl was beginning to replace the old shellac 78s, - Chuz Alfred, Ola Hanson and Chuck Lee - Jazz Young Blood.
Chuz Alfred, Ola Hanson and Chuck Lee
with Vinnie Burke & Kenny Clarke
Jazz Young Blood
Savoy Records - MG-12030
While in Ohio, Savoy Records president Fred Mendelsohn happened upon tenor sax player Chuz Alfred fronting a combo, liked what he heard, and brought it to the attention of Savoy A&R man Ozzie Cadena who agreed the group deserved to be recorded. Much like Rusty Bryant’s early recordings, Savoy had the band record some R&B sides, rather than the jazz Chuz preferred, at King Studios in Cincinnati - likely with marketing considerations in mind.
On March 30, 1955, with Ola Hanson on trombone and Chuck Lee on piano and drums, Chuz Alfred And His Combo recorded several rockin’ singles with titles like Buckeye Bounce and Rocking Boy along with an R&B styled cover of Duke Ellington’s Caravan. Also like Rusty, the label decided to let the group record their preferred jazz next. Not only that, but Savoy hooked them up with pioneering jazz drummer Kenny Clarke (Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, etc.) and session bassist Vinnie Burke.
“When Chuz subsequently went to Newark, NJ, to pick up payment for the “Rockin’ Boy” 45, he mentioned to Ozzie that the band preferred to play jazz and invited him to hear the band at Goldfarb Studio which he had rented for rehearsals. Surprisingly, Ozzie did drop by unexpectedly at the end of a late-night rehearsal session but left without saying a word. Chuz figured they had blown their chance, but the next day Ozzie called to say he had booked time in a recording studio.
Chuz, Ola Hanson, and Chuck Lee promptly reported to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Hackensack, only to learn they would have to make up some original tunes on the spot because Savoy would not pay royalties to ASCAP or BMI. Other than “Chuz Duz,” a song written by a friend which they had never played, everything else was created during the three-hour session with only one take of each tune and no overdubs.” That sounds like the right way to record a jazz record to me!
Savoy’s 12000 series of jazz-focused LPs had heavy hitters like Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, and Dizzy Gillespie, so Savoy was serious about their jazz and Chuz was in good company. But even the big names in jazz have usually not sold well, and the presentation of this record left much to be desired. Was the band “Jazz Young Blood,” or “Jazz Youngblood” as on the label and liner notes? Or was that the title of the album? I believe the latter is correct but needless to say this likely caused confusion in the marketplace. Even now, many discographies list this as a “Various Artists” release.
Charles “Chuz” Alfred would continue to play and sporadically record throughout his life, but he made his living in real estate before passing away in 2018. He’s pictured on the cover of The Musical Crossroads book and was an inaugural member of the Columbus Musicians Senior Hall of Fame in 1995. Ola Hanson passed away in 2009 and is also in the Hall of Fame. The young bloods that recorded a jazz album on the fly in September 1955 might not all be household names, but their legacy in Columbus music is secure. The full album is available here.
A1 A Message From Home
A2 Manta Wray
A3 I Can't Get Started
B2 Love Comes To Mehitabel Brown
B3 Chuz Does
Bass – Vinnie Burke
Drums – Kenny Clarke
Engineer – Rudy Van Gelder
Piano – Chuck Lee
Recording Supervisor – Ozzie Cadena
Tenor Saxophone – Chuz Alfred
Trombone – Ola Hanson