Red Allen
Director: William Forest Crouch

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Crawl, Red, Crawl Crawl, Red, Crawl (1946) has dancing babe Johni Weaver taking a lurking crouching pose as she comes out in front of the Henry James "Red" Allen, Jr., band.

Born in Algiers, Louisiana, in 1908, & steeped in the musical traditions of New Orleans, Red had been in his dad's marching band at age eight, living & breathing jazz since jazz began.

He'd play with just about everyone who was anyone through the '20s & '30s, & recorded with Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Ida Cox, Lionell Hampton, oh so many others.

He formed his own sextet in 1940. They had their first regular gig at New York's Cafe Society & from time to time featured guests like Art Tatum, Lena Horne, & Red's long-time pal Billie Holiday; she went with them to Chicago, & had the soundies been made one or two years sooner, good chance she would've been in them, *sigh.*

In his soundies you'll see Red on his trumpet, J.C. Higginbotham playing a wicked trumbone, Don Stovall on alto sax. J.C. on trumbone gets the main solo for Crawl, Red, Crawl.

That gorgeous dancer Weaver is crouching so low because the dance move reflects the "crawl," & the only spoken words in the number are near the end when Red says, "Down, way down!"

Drink HeartyDrink Hearty (1946) is a drinking song sung by Red, J.C. & Don. The amusingly lackadaisical lyrics go in part: "Drink hearty/ But stay with your party/ That is the best thing for you."

They camp it it up wonderfully. Good jazz with novelty lyrics was kind of the rule of the day, & while Red didn't do lots of that, he certainly did it with Drink Hearty.

It would've been funnier if Red hadn't had a real drinking problem. When Don Stovall does his sax solo, though, it's serious music.

J.C.'s trumbone solo follows, then Red (without a trumpet solo in this number) does a little rap about a drunk he just spotted in the audience.

Throughhout this & other of these soundies we're also hearing the wonderfully muddy piano of Marshall Marshall, who would later become a foundingl member of the Chi-Lites (of "Oh Girl" fame).

It was unusual that both sides of a single would be adapted as soundies. Yet Crawl, Red, Crawl written by Red Allen & Don Stovall, & Drink Hearty written by Danny Baxter & Fleecie Moore, had recently been released as a 78 rpm.

House on 52nd St. Red's tempo picks up for The House on 52nd Street (1946), opening with Red's horn solo. He then starts singing about the titular house, where people gather for the best jazz sound:

"Anytime that things are slow/ And you've s tarted feeling low/ Tell you feet you want to go/ To the house on 52nd Stree." Then J.C.'s trumbone solo, then Don's sax solo, & a big finale focusing on Red's trumpet.

As one might easily guess, there really was a House on 52nd Street, called The Hickory House, at 144 W. 52nd St to be exact, between Broadway & Sixth Avenue in New York City, which featured such bands as Artie Shaw, Wingy Manone, & of course Marian Mcpartland & Her Hickery House Trio.

Every Sunday from 1937 to 1948 there'd be a big jam session for whoever wanted to show up, & Red Allen was there a lot, as were Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, , Joe & Adele Marsala, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, the Dorsey Brothers, & the sublime Billie Holiday.

Count Me OutAnd there were more others than can be counted. No effing wonder Red wanted to commemorate that in song!

For the Red Allen/Don Stoval composition Count Me Out (1946), a dance couple is featured out in front of Red's band. It's Johni Weaver & Harry Turner.

They start with the same low-crouch stance Johni did alone in Crawl, Red, Crawl, then they both go into some spinning jazz-dance routines that are really quite advanced, mixing in tap moves, the splits, with Harry especially athletic about it.

All the while the instrumental trades off lead moments for sax, trumbone, & trumpet. Pretty damned sexy stuff from everyone, & it exudes history. When Red was older

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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