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GOTHAM 155; JANUARY, 1948

REISSUED AS KING 4204

 
 

 

The long term view when it comes to making investments, whether stocks, bonds, real estate or other commodities, centers around the theory of slow but steady growth.

It’s designed not to be very exciting simply because time is your greatest asset, sticking with your holdings for a prolonged period, ignoring market fluctuations and trusting that over the years the value of these investments will rise considerably.

When you finally do sell off down the road the dividends will give you a healthy profit without enduring any of the stress of buying and selling every time there’s a slight change in the financial forecast.

Then there are those who view that method as one for wimps, wussies and pantywaists.

You know the type: Cocky, aggressive, risk-takers who think the thrill of skirting the edge of disaster should the market collapse is half the fun of turning a profit.

Speculators like that are those who try and buy low and sell high via quick turnarounds, obsessing over capitalizing on the market fluctuations that long term investors take in stride. It’s all about anticipating the movement before it happens, then selling before that movement tapers off or reverses itself due to market correction.

In music circles in the late 1940’s the primary speculator was undoubtedly Earl Bostic, who jumped on rock ‘n’ roll with both feet before most of the industry even knew it was solvent.
 

 

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!
What must’ve been going through the mind of a typical jazz fan in late 1947 and early 1948 when they heard what Earl Bostic was up to?

Arguably the most skilled saxophonist on the scene, someone who was capable of combining dazzling technique with an advanced artistic vision and creative adventurism was suddenly honking and squealing like a drunken frat boy on a Friday night.

The notes Bostic were playing might’ve been in key, but the mindset behind them was alien in nature to anyone who valued “good” music. Surely this was some sort of cosmic joke, you thought. There was no way that these latest outlandish sides he was cutting could be his idea of the direction music should be heading in the near future.

The jazz fan who cringed upon hearing Bostic go mad on 845 Stomp shortly before the holidays now came back from sleeping off the aftereffects of their New Year’s festivities only to find that those garish sounds hadn’t been some alcohol induced nightmare that would vanish when the sun rose on 1948, but rather that Bostic had re-affirmed his descent into lunacy with Hot Sauce-Boss!.

What the hell was happening? Was this the result of radioactive fallout from atomic bomb tests perhaps? Or were those reports of aliens coming down from outer space in the New Mexico wilderness possibly true and had they used some sort of mind-meld technique to warp Bostic’s brain?

No, those reasons were too far-fetched… there was only one logical explanation for Earl Bostic’s sudden transformation from a solid respectable jazz musician to a godless heathen.

It was the Russians!

Somehow, someway they brainwashed him and were trying to use the higher frequencies coming from his alto saxophone to put the citizenry of the United States in a trance so they could place everybody under Communist control!

Surely there must be some provision in the Marshall Plan to counter this threat to National Security and musical good taste!!!

Whatever the real reason for his recent transformation though, surely it wouldn’t… and couldn’t… last.

But just try telling that to the startled jazz fan who flipped this latest record over and found more hell-bent sounds of Bostic’s Jump waiting for him on the other side and wondered what his chances were for survival in a society that seemed all but unrecognizable to his old school sensibilities.

So taking stock of the situation he promptly poured himself another highball, quit his job, told his wife to pack their bags and he put his house on the market and moved to the far reaches of Dakotas to live in desolate solitude and wait for the invasion of the continent that was sure to be imminent if this type of music turned his fellow Americans into mindless zombies, passively awaiting to be conquered by an evil foe who would stop at nothing – even corruption of the arts – to rule the world.
 


 

A Hop, A Skip And A Little Jump
Or maybe not.

Maybe Earl Bostic was just fucking around with you, seeing if you’d bite and then laughing as he pictured you pulling out your hair at these wild sounds his horn was emitting.

But the better explanation was simply that he sensed something happening with the post-War young black community who were growing increasingly frustrated, restless and ambitious and knew that such organic movements required cultural markers to light the way and so he gave it to them.

Whether or not he agreed with their aims or if instead he felt them to be reckless and foolish and merely saw it as an opportunity to be exploited in the short term doesn’t matter much, what matters is well before most musicians were even aware rock existed, Bostic was cutting rock records to be envied.

Bostic’s Jump is yet another to fit the bill for what was being called for at the time even if this one is toned down just a little compared to his previous efforts in this realm.

The opening is mild enough, maybe to disguise his intent for those cautiously proceeding after the last few sides of his had caused those long-standing Bostic fans to have heart palpitations. This record won’t have anybody clutching their chests in grim agony, or frantically scrambling for Nitroglycerin, but don’t get TOO comfortable because already Bostic is showing signs of heating things up after the first twenty seconds or so of gently traipsing through the melody.

It’s nothing alarming at first when he ramps up a few passages, digging into the notes as if he was wielding a spade instead of a horn, but surely it’s a sign of things to come.

Of course you’d have suspected this and prepared yourself if you were less focused on him and were more attuned to what drummer Shep Sheppard was doing behind him, laying down a steady and loudly insistent beat. That’s hardly the light tapping of the cymbals you were anticipating if you were hoping they’d all come to their senses and were returning to the jazz motif. This is a genuine backbeat and it never slackens off, giving Bostic the firm ground to ramp up his own playing as he goes along.

He does just that around the next bend, but as you’re anticipating a sudden explosion if you’re a rock fan – or dreading it if you’re not – the big bang never quite arrives. Instead he eases off the pressure for the mid-section, slowing it down, returning to a melodic sensibility, but based on his recent reputation you still get the idea that he’s itching to start some trouble. Surely by now he’s looking around the room from the bandstand, gauging which patrons will flee and which will try and fight back, and he’s checking to see if he can block the exits before too many escape out the side door.
 

Jump To It
Down the stretch he starts to mix it up and act a little rowdier, alternately wailing away and then honking some crude fills just to keep you acting defensive and skittish. The ticking time bomb however never goes off. It’s not exactly a tease but you get the idea his heart’s not fully in this one. Maybe he’s already worn down from the hedonistic revelry contained on the last few numbers. Or maybe creating these noisy odes to musical anarchy is a bit harder than it would seem on the surface and he merely ran out of inspiration.

What he plays here is good enough to get by and he’s helped immeasurably by Sheppard who contributes the best part on a quick but furious back and forth pattern that snaps you back to full attention, but it becomes clear that Bostic is merely suggesting chaos and disorder without calling for a full revolution. The record is more of a paragraph filled with expressions rather than sentences. A musical workout in search of a song. The ideas flow fast and furious but there’s no semblance of any real structure to it all. He’s not haphazard in his playing but it lurches forward at times from one section to the next rather than glides smoothly between them because it’s lacking the sensible arrangement that makes such progressions sound natural.

Had he compensated for that with additional firepower in the solos, as excessive as that might’ve been, he would have at least distracted you from noticing it was lacking a more coherent form, but by never fully cutting loose, only hinting at it, he’s letting down those who are already seeking to be concussed by these kind of tracks while also failing to captivate the ones who still expect more order and discipline in their records than this shows.

Yes, Bostic’s Jump is something of a typical rock noisemaker but it’s not trying to leave a crater in the landscape, merely attempting to rattle a few windows to roust the neighbors. It aims low, but not low enough in other words.

The most notable aspect is his tone which has him once again turning the higher alto into a fair approximation of the more lusty tenor. This gives him the ability to switch up during passages, sliding between ranges without trading horns off with another band member… which is quite useful considering there IS NO other sax player on the record. With Bostic you don’t need more than one, as he probably could make a soprano sax sound like a baritone horn without too much trouble.

He doesn’t quite go that far here, but at least this is one of the more meaty alto-led rock instrumentals we’ll come across and as such it fits in all the more with what rock ‘n’ roll is in the process of establishing as one of its more identifiable features of the first half dozen or so years of its lifespan.

But would Bostic himself be around for that time or would he soon slip out the back himself, stealing away into the night, smiling in the dark at the mayhem he helped to instill in the audience before absconding with their money and leaving no trace of his presence to be implicated in any crimes against nature that are brought against the ones who get caught in the dragnet that’s sure to follow?

With someone as restless as Earl Bostic that was always the most pertinent question.
 

The Jumping Off Point
Like so many speculators Bostic cashed out quickly once his own pockets were lined. Though Bostic’s Jump itself didn’t pay off, in this case he still probably opted out too soon. For the next few months his focus would be evenly split between rock and other more respectable fare, but when he realized there was still more geese laying golden eggs in the sax revolution that he helped to launch in rock he returned to the fold but by then the reins had been handed off to others who were more comfortable to stick around for the duration.

It’d be those long term investors to follow his lead, the Big Jay McNeelys and Joe Houstons of the world, who would firmly establish the instrument as the focal point of early rock ‘n’ roll, but it was Bostic who showed the way well before they were afforded the opportunity to create their own brand of havoc.

Maybe they would’ve done so anyway, I don’t doubt that they would, if only because they were of the age to want to carve out their identity in a way that connected with their generation, but let the record show that it was someone from the previous generation who briefly – but meaningfully – laid down the gauntlet the others picked up upon down the road.

Meanwhile Bostic kept putting his money in different markets, pouring some back into jazz, then transferring a lot to pop before pulling out and betting heavily on more the exotic sounds of classical and mambo.

But no matter how far he strayed from what he’d laid down at the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll he’d keep one eye on the rock market for the rest of his days, looking for another opportunity to score big. Unfortunately for him too many other crazed honkers and squealers had moved in and driven the price up in the meantime and so, like a lot of speculators, he had to be content with those early profits and stifle his frustration that had he stuck it out a few more months without wavering he might’ve really cleaned up.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Earl Bostic for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)