Monk Hazel

Like other 1920s New Orleans musicians recorded by field units for the big record companies, drummer Monk Hazel and his Bienville Roof Orchestra left only a few sides to history — but they’re sides distinguished by a personnel of jazz home-run hitters.

High SocietyClick here to listen to High Society

The Bienville Roof Orchestra (misspelled as Beinville on most Brunswick labels I’ve seen) was a little warehouse of talent — Sharkey Bonano and Sidney Arodin are in the lineup — that played atop the Bienville Hotel at Lee Circle in New Orleans, and recorded four songs for Brunswick in late 1928. Of these, High Society sounds like a kind of jazz relay race, each soloist handing off to the next with absolutely perfect timing and grace, while Git-Wit-It — love that title — swings along with deftly synced give-and-take ensemble playing.

GitWitItClick here to listen to Git-Wit-It

Monk Hazel continued working with his own band and others during the 1930s but left the music business during the Second World War years. He was carried back into it by the postwar Dixieland revival and recorded an LP in the 1950s with sidemen including Pete Fountain and Al Hirt, but I think he’d still be remembered on the strength of his quartet of 1928 Brunswick recordings, even if he’d recorded nothing else.

High Society
Brunswick 4181

Brunswick 4182

Monk Hazel and his Bienville Roof Orchestra
New Orleans, December 1928

Sharkey Bonano – t dir. Sidney Arodin – cl / Hal Jordy – as – bar / Freddy Newman – p / Joe Cupero – g / Luther Lamar – bb / Monk Hazel – d – mel – v.


A contemporary postcard showing Lee Circle in New Orleans with the Bienville Hotel at left — now an apartment house. Source: Wikimedia Commons


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