Click here to listen to Say “Yes” Today
Records by Roger Wolfe Kahn show what you can do if you have some creative spark, love of music — and a Park Avenue-sized supply of what P.G. Wodehouse might call the ready.
Kahn was a rich kid who caught the jazz bug early, but unlike he usual Hollywood-style scenario in which the Mater and Pater crack down on junior’s showbiz leanings, the son of millionaire banker and philanthropist Otto Kahn was apparently indulged, even encouraged, in his music habit.
So in 1923 at the age of 16, the younger Kahn bought out Arthur Lange’s orchestra and unleashed his bankroll on a new roster of top players. Before long the teen bandleader had a Victor recording contract and stood in front of many of the best jazz musicians in New York including Miff Mole, Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti.
Brian Rust pans Kahn’s overall recorded output — “Despite an illustrious personnel, very few of [Kahn’s] titles feature solos likely to interest the hot dance music enthusiast … .” — but I think several of his recordings, particularly those he made for Victor, are first-rate performances and some of the solos are acknowledged classics.
Click here to listen to She’s a Great, Great Girl
One of the best sides, Say “Yes” Today, captures as well as any other dance record of the Jazz Age the ebullient spirit of the times, with memorable solo contributions by Venuti and Mole. Venuti also figures prominently in She’s a Great, Great Girl, recorded a few weeks later, but here the trombonist is Jack Teagarden, sitting in as a last-minute replacement for the no-show Mole. In his liner notes for the excellent Roger Wolfe Kahn Jazz Oracle CD, Ross Wilby relates an interesting story about the hungover Teagarden’s involvement of that recording session, quoting a 1955 letter from Kahn to researcher Len Guttridge:
“What happened was nothing short of miraculous — the guy having come in cold, not only played every note of the whole arrangement like a veteran and blended in with our brass section as though he had been with us for months, but also took an ad-lib chorus, which I think is almost a classic now and will some day be a collector’s item — this under conditions of being wholly unprepared, having probably gotten to sleep before he was called down for the date, being decidedly under the weather and a few other handicaps.”
Kahn, who was also a songwriter (he penned the hits Crazy Rhythm and Imagination) wrapped up his music career in the mid-1930s and went into aviation, becoming a test pilot and manager for Grumman. He died in 1962.
Say “Yes” Today
New York, Feb. 8, 1928
Roger Wolfe Kahn, dir. Tommy Gott – Manny Klein – t / Miff Mole – tb / Alfie Evans – cl – as – bar / Arnold Brilhart – cl – as -f – o / Harold Sturr – cl – ts / Joe Venuti – Joe Raymond -vn / Arther Shutt – p / Tony Colucci – bj / Eddie Lang – g / Arthur Campbell – bb / Stan King – d /
She’s a Great, Great Girl
New York, March 14, 1928
Roger Wolfe Kahn, dir. Tommy Gott – Manny Klein – t / Jack Teagarden – tb / Alfie Evans – cl – as – bar / Arnold Brilhart – cl – as -f – o / unknown – ts / Joe Venuti – Joe Raymond -vn / Arther Shutt – p / Tony Colucci – bj / Eddie Lang – g / Arthur Campbell – db sb / Vic Berton – d /