The Eel

Bud Freeman and his Summa Cum Laude Orchestra

July 19, 1939

This recording was made on July 19, 1939 in New York City with the following personnel: Bud Freeman (tenor sax and leader), Max Kaminsky (cornet), Brad Gowans (valve trombone), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Eddie Condon (guitar), Dave Bowman (piano), Clyde Newcomb (bass), and Danny Alvin (drums).

Lawrence “Bud” Freeman a bandleader, and composer, known mainly for his tenor saxophone playing was born April 13, 1906. He had a smooth and full tenor sax style with a heavy robust swing. As one of the original members of the Austin High School Gang which began in 1922, Freeman played the C-melody saxophone alongside his other band members such as Jimmy McPartland and Frank Teschemacher before switching to tenor saxophone two years later. Influenced by artists like the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and Louis Armstrong from the South, they would begin to formulate their own style, becoming part of the emerging Chicago Style of jazz.

In 1927, he moved to New York, where he worked as a session musician and band member with Red Nichols, Roger Wolfe Kahn, Ben Pollack, Joe Venuti, among others. One of his most notable performances was a solo on Eddie Condon’s 1933 recording, “The Eel,” which then became Freeman’s nickname (for his long snake-like improvisations). Freeman played with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra (1936–1938) as well as for a short time Benny Goodman’s band in 1938 before forming his own band, the Summa Cum Laude Orchestra (1939–1940).

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