New Orleans Jazz – News and Opinions – Jim Robinson

Nathan “Jim” Robinson – born December 25, 1892 in Deer Range Louisiana: died May 4, 1976 in New Orleans. A little history is enough to bring this show on the road!

Jim studied guitar as a child but started playing the trombone in the army during the First World War. He returned to New Orleans in 1919 and was good enough to join the Sam Morgan Band where he was a fixture for a dozen years. He studied with Sunny Henry and worked with Lee Collins in the Gold Leaf Band.

He remained active during the Depression, mainly with Avery “Kid” Howard and was a regular in the George Lewis Band. Jim recorded with the Sam Morgan Band in the 1920s, legendary recordings that have been reissued many times. He has attended the Kid Rena Decca sessions and is obviously on most of Bill Russell’s Bunk Johnson recordings. One of the greatest Jazz Band recordings occurred right now, with Bunk gone missing, Jim Robinson and George Lewis along with Baby Dodds, Slow Drag and Lawrence Marrero created the great anthem of New Orleans collective jazz improvisation. It’s yours to hear today on American Music AMCD 4. The melody is called “San Jacinto Stomp” – it’s my desert island record – but more on that later. Now listen to “Ice Cream” with Jim giving it all and again there are no solos, just jazz. He’s on AMCD 2, and anyway, listen carefully to Baby Dodds on drums.

Jim toured and recorded countless times with George Lewis and Kid Howard, and made some wonderful recordings under his own name for the Riverside label … This is a small part of Jim Robinson’s music-filled life. I am not attempting a bio here, my main purpose is to get you to listen to “Big Jim” by yourself! Harsh critics in the field of traditional and modern jazz have complained about the apparent simplicity of his style, “Jim Robinson’s agricultural trombone,” said one critic in the Jazz Journal.

Having spent my life studying, playing, living and loving New Orleans Jazz, I can tell you that more trombonists have tried and given up in frustration trying to emulate Jim Robinson’s style. I’m not talking about copying Jim note for note. Nobody wants to copy George Lewis, Jim Robinson, Bunk Johnson or Kid Howard. What we are looking for is the style, the purpose of the instrument in a jazz band playing in the New Orleans ensemble. The above musicians have actually created a style – yes – an original creation for us to listen to, entertain and even emulate.

I can tell you that the thrill of playing and listening to a band in this style is “The Meaning of Life” for me. The search for the orgasmic wall of rhythmic sound that is not arranged and the spontaneous improvisation of the whole is nirvana.

I guess my desert island record would be American Music AMCD 2 “When You and I was Young Maggie”

But I send you a warning – this music is addictive – beware! Wait a minute, I have another must-have! In 1963 Tom Bethel recorded Kid Howard at San Jacinto Hall in New Orleans with Kid Howard, Jim Robinson, George Lewis, George Guesnon, Slow Drag and Cie Frazier. It’s on GHB 23 – I must have it with me! Warning: here’s another Jim Robinson star in “Moonlight and Roses on GHB

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