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August 14, 2011


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jeff helgesen

Since inquiring minds always need to know, here's some background on Saxophobia:

Doug Zielke

Many thanks to Laurie Pepper for sharing another gem from her collection. This obscure 80's date from a Seattle club is a must hear for Pepper fans. And while Laurie claims the sound quality is less than stellar (it's actually very good), you won't care as the music is simply awesome.

James Cimarusti

The title track of "Saxophobia" can be found on the out of print collection "Ernie Kovaks Record Collection" (

Bruno Leicht

Hi there, Marc --

Great to see such rare footage from the original "Birdland". This proves that it was indeed a very small joint. And to see Sonny Payne in action is pure joy.

One of my colleagues, a clarinetist, commented at the video, and has added some valuable information about this gig. -- He wrote that this video can't be from 1959 but from some years earlier, possibly Winter 1955.

Thanks for posting this discovery.

Paul Mitchell Brown

Thanks for the Basie link, Marc. I wonder if NBC managed to catch any of Johnny Smith's set. There's very little footage of Smith so seeing him perform in his prime at Birdland would really be something.

Thomas Gray

I did some quick research
1) Chris Sheridan's Basie Discography
2) An internet site about Steve Allen's TV show

This 1959 (sic) Birdland clip is from July 22, 1956


Thanks Thomas. I consulted Tom Lord but he didn't have that date. Somehow didn't occur to me that simply googling "steve allen basie birdland" would do the trick. But my winter '55 was a realistic guess ;-)

For completists, that's Season 1, Episode 4 of the Steve Allen show.

T.K. Tortch

Don't know if it's the same tune or not, but Rudy Weidoeft recorded a track by the same name in the 1920's. You can listen to it at the Library of Congress' "National Jukebox":

T.K. Tortch

Ack. I meant "Rudy Weidoeft recorded a track by the name of Saxophobia in the 1920's".

James Cimarusti

RE: T.K. Tortch-It is the same tune. As I mentioned above, this tune was used by Ernie Kovacs as his "running around" music to use between his sketches. My guess would be that this version, not the newer one by Clancy's Clowns, was the one used on his show. (The Clancy's Clowns track is on the "Record Collection" CD because I believe the producers couldn't track down the original RCA Version. It makes sense that Ernie would use the RCA disc since NBC owned RCA at the time and any records on RCA would have been available for Ernie to use).

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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