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ClassicsOnline Home » KRUPA, Gene: Wire Brush Stomp (1935-1940)
GENE KRUPA "Wire Brush Stomp"
Original Recordings 1935-1940
"Benny Goodmans drummer scaled the heights of the swing world; having a phenomenal technique and being a natural showman he "popularized" the drums with extended, virtuosic solos." Nicolas Slonimsky: Bakers Dictionary
A fashion still persists which regards The Chicago Flash first and foremost as a colourful showman, a heroin addict who kicked his habit and re-emerged against high odds. But even the most exacting connoisseurs of jazz have long rated him among the greatest of percussionists while even the unversed celebrate him as a key figure of Swing. Great drummers, it is true, abounded during his heyday Ray Bauduc, Wally Bishop, Ben Pollack, Dave Tough, George Wettling and Krupas idol Chick Webb among them (all in their way evolved, like Krupa himself, from such earlier New Orleans models as Baby Dodds, Tubby Hall and Zutty Singleton) and, in the Big Band Era, his only true rival was Buddy Rich. But Krupa was gifted with a rare blend of flair, good looks, ambition and commercial motivation.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, on 15 January, 1909, of immigrant Polish parents, Gene played drums from an early age and was strongly inclined towards music, particularly jazz. He was educated at Bowen High School and initially, to please his mother, began to train for the priesthood at St. Josephs College in Indiana, in 1924. In the summer vacation of that year he played with The Frivolians in Madison, Wisconsin and his decision to abandon the seminary for a career in jazz was consolidated, during 1925, by percussion tuition from Al Silverman, Roy Knapp and Ed Straight. His engagements with Chicago bands included Albert Gales, the Blue Friars and the Joe Kayser and Benson Orchestras, and over the next couple of years he also worked with Leo Shukin, Thelma Terry, Mezz Mezzrow and Eddie Neibauers Seattle Harmony Kings.
Genes first recording, with Ben Pollacks Bucktown Five, was made in early 1927 and the now-legendary sides he cut later that year with Red McKenzie fronting Eddie Condons Chicagoans were reputedly the first studio jazz discs ever to feature bass-drum and tom-toms. In 1929, Gene accompanied Condon to New York City where, subsequently, he worked variously with other outfits, including Irving Aaronsons Commanders, Mal Hallett and Red Nichols (in 1930, with Nichols, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman among his colleagues, he also played in the pit orchestra of Gershwins Strike Up The Band). During 1931, while working in the band which backed ill-fated vocalist Russ Columbo (in this Goodman doubled as fixer) Krupa first impressed A & R man John Hammond with his "ecstatic", rock-steady pulse.
In 1934, Gene was playing in Chicago with Buddy Rogers orchestra, a large commercial band, when Hammond persuaded him to join Goodman, the newly-appointed star of the National Biscuit Companys Saturday evening Lets Dance broadcasts. The enthusiastic Gene scored an instant success as a sideman with Goodmans first big band from December 1934, becoming a household name in his own right by mid-1935 when the Swing Era really took flight. His "urgent, pulsating drive" also made him a star of the Goodman Trio and Quartet (the first truly popular essays in jazz "chamber music") while his dynamic performance and hair-slicked screen-star image won him a vast, predominantly female, fan following. A virtuoso in a band of virtuosi, Krupa displayed a technique previously unheard of in jazz. His powerful ego, however, led inevitably to clashes with the jealous, irascible Goodman who was clearly upstaged by so over-large an aura. While Gene remained closely associated with Benny until 1938, soon after the celebrated Carnegie Hall Concert the two giants were to part company until 1943.
During his Goodman years Krupa recorded only two sessions under his own name in November 1935, billed as Gene Krupa & His Chicagoans and in February 1936, as Gene Krupa & His Swing Band. The recordings were made by Decca in Chicago originally for issue on British Parlophones Swing series. The first session (as Hammond reminds us in On Record) had a ready-made cachet of success conferred by "Benny, Stacy, Kazebier, Joe Harris on trombone, and young Israel Crosby on bass" all holding their own in instrumental arrangements of ballads (Billy Hills The Last Round-Up and Harry Rubys Three Little Words and Ernest Seitzs The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise) while its "most spectacular side was Blues Of Israel, which began and ended with perfect, economical bass solos by the brilliant Crosby". The second session featured stalwarts of the Fletcher Henderson outfit Chu Berry and Roy Eldridge (notable for their collaboration with Krupa Swing Is Here) and Goodmans star vocalist Helen Ward (heard here in Mutiny In The Parlor and Im Gonna Clap My Hands.
After his split with Goodman, Krupa immediately formed the big band which made its début at Steel Pier, Atlantic City, in April 1938 and by the following year was ensconced in the ballroom of Chicagos Hotel Sherman. His major record successes in the period up to January 1940 include several of his own efforts, most notably Wire Brush Stomp, Apurksody (specially written with Chappie Willet, this became his theme-tune), Drummin Man and Quiet And Roll Em (in a fine arrangement by his tenor-saxophonist Sam Donahue). Additionally, from May 1938 onwards, he enjoyed the popularity ensuing from regular entries in the US popular charts, including Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-Der-E (a swing arrangement of an 1891-vintage English music hall song and a No.15 in February 1939) and Blue Rhythm Fantasy (a No.26 in September 1940).
Gene Krupa died in Yonkers, New York on 16 October, 1973.
Peter Dempsey, 2002
Transfers & Production: David Lennick
Digital Noise Reduction: Graham Newton
The Naxos Historical labels aim to make available the greatest recordings of the history of recorded music, in the best and truest sound that contemporary technology can provide. To achieve this aim, Naxos has engaged a number of respected restorers who have the dedication, skill and experience to produce restorations that have set new standards in the field of historical recordings.
As a producer of CD reissues, David Lennicks work in this field grew directly from his own needs as a broadcaster specializing in vintage material and the need to make it listenable while being transmitted through equalizers, compressors and the inherent limitations of A.M. radio. Equally at home in classical, pop, jazz and nostalgia, Lennick describes himself as exercising as much control as possible on the final product, in conjunction with CEDAR noise reduction applied by Graham Newton in Toronto. As both broadcaster and re-issue producer, he relies on his own extensive collection as well as those made available to him by private collectors, the University of Toronto, Syracuse University and others.
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KRUPA, Gene: Wire Brush Stomp (1935-1940)