Submitted Date 08/29/2020


Pee Wee Russell, Muggsy Spanier, Miff Mole and Joe Grauso, Nick's (Tavern), New York, ca. June 1946


Last weekend I went to the Princeton Record Exchange. I love the store. I usually look through the jazz and classical albums and randomly pick records to buy. I took my chances with "The Definitive Pee Wee Russell," why not?

I never heard of him. I have jazz records, including my Dad's collection and others I've bought over the years. But something was always missing. I didn't know what that was until I heard Pee Wee. Sometimes records sit in my house for months, years before I play them.

This time it was different, after a few days I played the record. It started spinning and the sound of the master clarinetist stunned me. The missing piece was that I didn't have an 'ear' for jazz but that changed as my mind absorbed the beautiful sound leaping off the vinyl. The first piece on Side A is "Out of Nowhere!" It's playing now and it's swingy, bubbly, and full of life and its title has me believing in fate.

Pee Wee invoked my memory of when I 'played' the clarinet in elementary school. I wanted to play the flute like my sister, but was stuck with the reed instrument, resulting in endless chapped lips. I wasn't a good student, didn't practice my notes, so during class or concerts I only squeaked, pretending to play. Sitting next to another clarinetist saved me as her sound played for both of us, unbeknownst to my teacher.

Now years later the past has stretched across the years into this moment and Pee Wee is alive again, seemingly come out of nowhere.




Please login to post comments on this story