Kendra Steiner Editions

May 13, 2017

THE JAXYSON RECORDS STORY (Acrobat Records, UK)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:59 pm

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THE JAXYSON RECORDS STORY

Acrobat Records UK (CD), released in 2008

1. Texas Blues- JOSEPH BUTLER        2. All My Money Is Gone- GOLDRUSH

3. Lonesome Blues – GOLDRUSH 4. Hold That Train, Conductor – JOHNNY FULLER

5. From Bad to Worse (Incomplete)- JOHNNY FULLER

6. Goin’ Back Down in Old Mobile- UNKNOWN ARTIST

7. Jaxyson Scratch- UNKNOWN ARTIST

8. Weep Below, Children, (Weep No More)- UNKNOWN ARTIST

9. I’ll Meet You in the Morning- UNKNOWN ARTIST

10. Stand by Me- UNKNOWN ARTIST

11. Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet, Gabriel- SISTER RITA

12. Today – RAINBOW GOSPEL SINGERS

13. On the Battlefield – RAINBOW GOSPEL SINGERS

14. Didn’t It Rain – REV CHARLES WHITE

15. Stand by Me – REV CHARLES WHITE

16. Say a Word- UNKNOWN ARTIST

17. Standing on Jordan- UNKNOWN ARTIST

18. Good Morning to Heaven- GOSPEL TRUMPETS

19. Constantly Abiding – GOSPEL TRUMPETS

20. How Long- CHARLIE WHITE   21. Well Done – CHARLIE WHITE

22. I Must Tell Jesus – BROTHER JOHNNY FULLER

23. What Could I Do – REV L H NARCISSE

24. Singing in My Soul – SUSAN BENNETT

25. I’m Going to Tell God – REV L H NARCISSE

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Nothing satisfies quite as much as a collection of material from a small label….and by “small,” I don’t mean a label that was a regional label or a label that got airplay in the local city. No, I mean a label on a community level, even a neighborhood level, which recorded the artists within a few miles’ radius, a label which was sold at only a few outlets, a label that was so close to the street-level of the community that produced the music that it seems like YOU ARE THERE.

The JAXYSON label of Oakland, California, was just such a label, reflecting Oakland’s African-American community of the day, most especially its nightclubs and bars on Seventh St. and its churches….and the personality of its one-man operator Jesse Jaxyson. Jaxyson sounds like quite a character—-he refused to reply to a draft notice during WWII due to his anti-war beliefs and was jailed for a few years, he was a practitioner of Christian Science who ate a Steve Reeves/Jack LaLanne-style diet of juiced fruits and vegetables, and he is described in the notes as riding “around the streets of Oakland on his bicycle wearing a white hard-hat until well in his eighties.”

He and his wife operated a radio and electronics repair shop on Seventh in Oakland, and out of this shop his label was run. Bob Geddins, well-known Bay Area music entrepreneur, helped him set up shop with the label, and with Geddins’ connections with both the artists and with record pressing and the like, the two had a mutually satisfactory relationship. In the liner notes, Opal Louis Nations suggests that most copies of Jaxyson Records were sold at the shop itself (and one assumes by the artists, whether they be blues/R&B artist selling them at clubs or gospel artists selling that at churches and revivals), so it’s unlikely most will have heard this material.

I can’t imagine anyone who loves small label blues and gospel not going crazy over the material on this album. It starts off with a bang with Joseph Butler, who is not unlike the earliest Lightnin’ Hopkins—-not sure if the guitar is amplified at all (probably not), but it is very close-miked and truly in-your-face. Truly, it’s as if you are right next to him. Goldrush’s tracks are ragged piano blues, like the kind of thing you’d hear on a Chicago label like Ora-Nelle or a Detroit label like J-O-B, but even more earthy. Black Diamond reminds me of the earliest Lowell Fulson, when he still had one foot in pre-WWII blues. As for the Gospel material here, these performers (except for one intonation-challenged lady who’s too shrill for my taste, but hey, one encounters enough of those in real life in churches!) are really spirit-filled and well-rehearsed, but not at all slickly recorded. It’s like you are in the front row at the revival. One of the unknown Gospel artists is clearly a big fan of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, playing and singing with fire and soul….something you could pretty much say about everyone here!

Not only do you get most of the label’s output (not a lot), but also there are 17 (!!!!) acetates recorded for the label, rescued in the 2000’s from a swap meet by record collector Dick Bass, who knew gold when he saw it. A handful of the tracks are by “unknown artists,” and one wonders about the backstory of these folks. One in particular, “Going Back Down In Old Mobile,” deals with living in Oakland but fighting a desire to move back down South, to Mobile, Alabama (a fine town—-had a great time there in 2015). With the huge migration of African-Americans from the South to the Midwest and the Northeast and the West, this track could be tapping into the thoughts of many these migrants….working in their new cities, but feeling the pull of back home.

Acrobat Records has some other superb collections of  small West Coast mid-late 1940’s labels, from the Bay Area there are also comps of  the Trilon and Olliet labels, and from Los Angeles, the legendary “Miltone” label run by Roy Milton (the one with the cartoon labels). All are highly recommended, but for those who like it real and raw, go for the Jaxyson Records Story.

This album takes you right into the small clubs and storefront churches of Oakland’s Black community circa 1948-49—-heck, it even takes you on the streets, with Charlie White, who uses a tin funnel and water bucket for percussion. You could not get this close to the reality of life on Oakland’s Seventh St. back in 1949-50 unless you lived there yourself, all day, every day….but you can get a core sample of that environment and feel the passion and the life experience and the joy and the pain of these artists on this amazing album. REAL PEOPLE dealing with REAL LIFE through the art of their music.

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Read the article from Blues and Rhythm on the Jaxyson label by Opal Louis Nations, posted at OLN’s own website (it was used as the liner notes on the album):  http://opalnations.com/files/Jaxyson_Records_Story_Blues_Rhythm_216_Feb.2007.pdf

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