CORAL 65070; NOVEMBER 1951



Everything you need to know about all of the participants of this record – their hopes, dreams and outlooks – can be found in the two and a half minutes of this song.

Admittedly none of those things were much of a mystery to begin with, but at least this record confirms what we already suspected.

The culinary title shows us that Coral Records is desperately hoping to attract the same hungry fans who gobbled up Singer’s big hits with similar names three years in the past.

The producer of the record, Teddy Reig, the man who first urged aspiring rock sax musicians to honk, wants to revive the approach on which he made his name.

Meanwhile the artist, Hal Singer – back from a long recording sabbatical – has his usual mixed feelings about rock ‘n’ roll, knowing that it pays the bills and briefly made him a star, but which he feels is beneath his dignity as a serious musician.

As a result there’s a lot more on the menu than appears at first glance.


What’s On Your Plate
It’s been just over a year since we last came across Hal Singer on a record of his own. It’s been more than two years since he last made a dent on the rock audience’s consciousness and more than three years since he first exploded onto the scene with a chart topping hit that helped to define the type of balls to wall honking style that he himself loathed.

With the commercial decline of these types of instrumentals since that time he may have been glad to realize it no longer was even seen as a particularly viable career move but rather something that had the potential to cut you off from more upscale jobs without even drawing positive attention from a bunch of degenerate rock fans.

You’d think all of that might mean he’d slowly given up on this wayward lifestyle, returned to the sophisticated jazz he’d planned on playing for a living originally which would allow him to leave this brand of musical decadence to more crudely reckless saxophonists.

But here he is again on a new label with the same old shallow aims, to pull in an audience who might return him to the charts with Buttermilk And Beans, a shameless attempt to conjure up the magic of Cornbread or Beef Stew, his two culinary themed hits of years gone by.

We know Coral Records’ motivation all too well – they wanted hits in rock ‘n’ roll, that’s why Decca came up with a subsidiary designed for just such a purpose in the first place and with Reig in control it was only natural he turn to the man he helped to convince to cut loose way back on Savoy in 1948.

We can even guess Singer’s impetus in signing with them as surely the major parent label seemed a lofty ambition for someone of his ilk, even if to earn a shot with them he’d have to first consent to these kinds of vulgar displays for Coral.

But what makes little sense is why everyone involved was so unimaginative in their attempt to come up with a record that was nothing but a pale imitation of what hadn’t been popular since late last decade in rock rather than trying to navigate the current landscape and find a way to adapt those old lessons into something new and improved.

Get Your Fill
There’s never been any question that Hal Singer could play the saxophone better than most musicians of his era… an era which lasted over a century, as he died at 101 a few years back.

The real question was whether what YOU considered playing better and what HE considered playing better were remotely the same thing.

Rock fans wanted cacophonous and ostentatious mayhem. Singer wanted technically precise, rhythmically sound and melodically pleasant songs. It hardly takes a music degree to see where these two views diverge.

Unfortunately it also doesn’t require a music degree or even much time for a run-of-the-mill unschooled listener to hear that Buttermilk And Beans never answers that question to anybody’s satisfaction, whether his own, his producer or his record label, not to mention those few Singer stalwarts who bought this when it came out, hoping that it’d give them the same visceral thrill they’d gotten in the summer of 1948 when he so captivated the budding rock scene.

This record sort of tries to split the difference between classy and crude without going too far in either direction making it unsuitable as a more sophisticated piece by nature, yet also falling short as a dance floor workout for the rockers in the crowd.

As is often the case the problem isn’t found with Singer’s work itself, but rather his cohorts in the horn section who bring to this a far too mannered approach with their oddly deflating notes backed by a jazz-styled drummer riding the cymbals making it seem like a slightly tentative rocker wandered in off the streets to a flashy club and sat in with the band. Singer’s trying to impress the more seasoned musicians with his own technical abilities while at the same time showing them up slightly by going further out than they’d deem acceptable.

The lines themselves are tolerable enough for rock even though they’re never approaching his best work by any means, either as a solo artist or backing others in the studio, and at least he’s showing some urgency while also suggesting he’s capable of even more thanks to the restrained force of his playing.

Yet it’s hardly making much of an impression as the melody is nothing special, there’s a minimum of rhythmic drive to it and the accompaniment is tepid. Since Singer refuses to honk away to offset these deficiencies, the record is more of a decent warm-up exercise for rock ‘n’ roll, rather than a showstopper in its own right.


Check Please!
People have a tendency in life to want to be recognized for achieving “something” of note, even though oftentimes it’s not anything you initially set out to do.

It’s far easier to become infamous than famous, to attain a level of celebrity based on shameless self-promotion or horrible actions than it is to make a mark with hard-earned talent or good deeds.

That’s not to say that Hal Singer was akin to an Internet Influencer, reality TV star or serial killer but in his own eyes there wasn’t nearly as much to differentiate himself from those disreputable characters as he would’ve liked.

Yet the lure of stardom caused many a serious musician to forsake low paying wages as a sideman in a name band to start headlining clubs as a rocker and once tasted that flavor was hard to fully resist.

No wonder he served up another dish like Buttermilk And Beans. Though it was clearly a compromised track some of the sounds within were what had made him a household name for awhile even if the houses he was known in were hardly found in neighborhoods he’d prefer to visit.

But looking around him and seeing some serious jazz musicians scraping by on table scraps in a style that was no longer nourishing enough for all those who wanted a seat at the table meant that Singer wouldn’t turn down a filling meal in rock ‘n’ roll even if he were left to do the dishes after eating.


(Visit the Artist page of Hal Singer for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)