Miss Emily’s JukeJoint, 12.8.11: Herschel Evans

    In the late 1930’s, the Count Basie Orchestra featured two tenor saxophonists: Lester Young and Herschel Evans of Denton. Books, movies and thousands of words have, rightfully, been dedicated to the former. Only a true jazz geek knows of the latter. Herschel was born in Denton on March 9, 1909,  and is found at our Ancestry.com database in the 1930 Census where he appears to be living with an aunt in Bexar County, Texas (San Antonio) while working in the Troy Floyd Orchestra. Click on image below for larger size:

Herschel in San Antone, 1930

           In the census record you can see three important pieces of information that prove this is the same Mr. Evans: 21 years of age, Negro, and musician employed in an orchestra. Here is an early recording with Floyd from 1929, Dreamland Blues. His solo starts @ 1:58.

Lady Hersch

  There is a storied Texas Tenor saxophonist tradition going back to Herschel and on through to Buddy Tate, Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, David “Fathead” Newman, King Curtis, Donald Wilkerson, Booker Ervin, James Clay, Marchel Ivery, on up to UNT alum Shelley Carrol who performs regularly in Dallas. The thread that runs through all of them is a full-bodied tone that always has a blues flavor.

  By the mid-’30s, he was working in Kansas City and landed a seat in the Count Basie Orchestra when they expanded their size after being signed to Decca Records in 1936. In the Basie band, he finally achieved fame through the following recordings (with time his solos start): One O’ Clock Jump 00:45, Doggin’ Around 00:40, Texas Shuffle 1:56 and his most famous solo performance, Blue and Sentimental.

In the Basie reed section

                          

Herschel on left with fellow Basie-ite, Buck Clayton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        Herschel died at age 29 in 1939 of a heart attack and was replaced in the Basie band by fellow Texan, Buddy Tate. It was said that Lester mourned his section mate, paid his funeral expenses, and Evans’ passing may have helped precipitate his leaving Basie the next year. Here is footage of the Count Basie Orchestra at Randall’s Island in New York City in 1938. The music on the video is overdubbed but, at 1:41, you can see him sitting down with his sax to the right of singer Jimmy Rushing who is standing.

posted by Chuck.

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4 thoughts on “Miss Emily’s JukeJoint, 12.8.11: Herschel Evans

  1. Rare jazz recordings including Evans found: http://harlemworldblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/harlem-jazz-museum-acquires-trove-by-greats/
    “Asked if the Savory recordings were likely to prompt a critical reassessment of some jazz musicians or a reordering of the informal
    hierarchy by which fans rank instrumentalists, Mr. Morgenstern responded by citing the case of Herschel Evans, a saxophonist who played in the Count Basie Orchestra but who died early in 1939, just before his 30th birthday. Evans played alongside Lester Young, who was one of the giants of the saxophone and constantly overshadowed Evans on the Basie group’s studio recordings.

    “There can never be too much Lester Young, and there is some wonderful new Lester Young on these discs,” Mr. Morgenstern said. “But there are also some things where you can really hear Herschel, who is woefully under-represented on record and who, until now, we hardly ever got to hear stretched out. What I’ve heard really gives us a much better picture of what he was all about.””

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