Last Friday, for the first time in our existence, the Southside Aces were in vogue. The Vogue Building at 412 South Wells Street in Chicago houses on it’s seventh floor a karate dojo where the members of the 50Fifty dance group hold their monthly dances. They hired us to play music of a Friday and Saturday, so we drove down. Zack was off in Europe somewhere or another, so we enlisted the aid of trumpeter and Chicago native “Kid” Ben Bell Bern. Otherwise, all the usual suspects were in attendance.
The elevator pours you directly into the hall. Nice wood floor about fifty by twenty feet. Two rows of necessary, load-bearing pillars in the middle of the floor created an automatic increased degree of difficulty for the dancers. Floorcraft is a dancing term that refers to the etiquette of dancing in public. Basically, you try to dance as if you remember that there are other people on the floor besides you and your partner. Giant pillars are unforgiving teachers in this regard. Add the essence of the karate dojo, and I imagined the movie montage where the sensei keeps making the blindfolded Lindy (grass)hoppers bang into the pillars until they achieved floorcraft ESP.
The Aces were between a couple of those pillars, but were seated so didn’t risk injury. Amongst some of the standard fare, we played great tunes throughout the weekend like “Back Room Romp,” “Honey Hush,” “Blues In The Air,” New Orleans Bump,” “Bogalusa Strut,” “Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing,” “Stardust,” “He’s A Different Type Of Guy,” handfuls of others. But the absolute hit of the weekend had to be the classic “Deep Henderson.”
I guess this meandering story is one about circling back. King Oliver and his Dixie Syncopators had recorded it in 1926. It included some musicians that went on to some greatness of their own, including a couple favorites of mine, Barney Bigard and Albert Nicholas. That recording knocked out and inspired the Hall Brothers Jazz Band to play and record it back in the 1970s. Subsequently, both of those recordings inspired us to record it, releasing it on last year’s Second Thursday. It’s favorite status in the Aces happened back in 2012, when we first played it at the Eagles for a feature on the Hall Brothers Jazz Band.
So there we were Friday night, done with our work and making plans to go to Lawrence’s for late night shrimp.
"Shrimply The Best"
Incidentally, the banana pudding with 'Nilla Wafers was also a band favorite.
Ben was going on about “Deep Henderson,” saying, “That’s the cut!” Those three words are about the highest praise a musician can give a song. I said to him, “I’m not going to repeat too many songs this weekend, but we should definitely play that one again tomorrow night.” Ben nodded in agreement and declared, “Chicago needs to know about ‘Deep Henderson’!”
And there’s the circle. A circle that is making all you jazz history nerds, myself included, already begin to chuckle nerdily. King Oliver and his Dixie Syncopators were playing at the Plantation Café in Chicago, 338 E. 35th Street, back in 1926 when they recorded the song. A mere five miles from the Vogue Building. A lot further away in terms of the racial geography of the time, but that’s a different story. Chicago has known about the song for nearly ninety years. I admit, there’s a good chance they’ve forgotten about it for probably 86 of those years, but it started in the Windy City, and we brought it back. It was kind of like one of those paintings that gets lost in a war and is restored to it’s rightful country after confirming it’s lineage. In our case nobody noticed, not even most members of the band, I would warrant, but it gave me a small twinge of satisfaction to think about it that way.
Here's the Southside Aces version off of Second Thursday: