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Liner Notes

From "Princeton Triangle Jazz Band: Complete Recordings" (1924-1932)
Vintage Music Productions 0021 (CD)

The Princeton Triangle Jazz Band derives its name from the Triangle Club, a student organization that wrote and performed musical shows, at Princeton. In 1923, the band began composing, arranging and playing jazz numbers for these shows. Barely a year later, in 1924, they were in the studio, at Columbia, cutting the first of many recordings made, until 1932.

Given the raw and often self-destructive world so frequently associated with the early days of jazz, one can hardly deny the improbability that a group of young and well-bred Ivy Leaguers might actually influence the course of "America's music." In fact, while exemplifying the best spirit of jazz innovation, these recordings provide more than a glimpse into the fertile loam of artistry that nurtured a rich legacy, not only to jazz, but to American culture in general. Consider the case of Herb Sanford (piano, 1924-27), whose later contributions to the idiom include the landmark biography, Tommy and Jimmy: The Dorsey Years, and Edwin "Squirrel" Ashcraft (accordion, 1926-28). Together with Helen Oakley, Ashcraft would found the Chicago Rhythm Club, a loose, though influential association of jazz musicians and promoters. Beginning in 1935, the Chicago Rhythm Club sponsored jam sessions, which included such notables as Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Chu Berry, Roy Eldridge and Teddy Wilson (as well as Sanford, Bill Priestley and Jack Howe, from the Princeton band). These jam sessions would, among other things, play an important role in the integration of bands, during the swing era. Finally, consider the case of Jimmy Stewart who, before becoming the talented screen actor that he was, can be heard providing the vocal for the band's "Day After Day" (1928).

If such contributions to the music and culture are enough to prompt a closer look at the band from which so much talent was cultivated, be sure to take note of the inventiveness and versatility of the young musicians who comprised the group. In the discography, you will notice, for instance, that Frank Orvis is listed, on two sessions (both Dec 1924), as playing four instruments. This is not a typo. According to Herb Sanford, the pianist for these dates, Orvis was an impressive musician, who often doubled on a number of instruments. Other examples include Bill Priestley, who played guitar as well as cornet, and Avery Sherry, who, when called upon, could deliver a clarinet chorus that was as lively as his alto playing.

~ Jeff Hopkins
February 2001

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