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The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Collection The Charles N. Huggins Project

The East Bay Sound

Traditional jazz has a long history in the East Bay, dating back to the origins of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band at Big Bear Tavern in the Oakland Hills and Sweets Ballroom before 1940. After Hambone Kelly’s closed its doors in El Cerrito in 1951, a second generation of adventurous, traditionalist musicians with a distinctly independent style followed. Best among them were Bill Bardin, Dick Oxtot, Bob Mielke, and Bill Napier. Oxtot, Mielke, and Napier were mentored by Bob Helm and Burt Bales in a youth band Sunday afternoons at the Dawn Club, 1942-43. Bardin, slightly older than the others, performed with the wartime version of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band at the Dawn Club in 1942.

The major East Bay bands between 1950 - 2000 were led by trombonist Bob Mielke, banjo player and singer Dick Oxtot, banjo player Ted Shafer, multi-instrumentalist Earl Scheelar, and cornet player P.T. Stanton. Various popular ensembles during the 1970s and ’80s were run on both sides of San Francisco Bay by singers Barbara Dane, Barbara Lashley, piano player Ray Skjelbred, or reed multi-instrumentalist Richard Hadlock. Trombone player Bill Bardin and clarinetist Bill Napier were extraordinary talents who never led their own bands, and like all these musicians, made few commercial recordings during their lengthy careers.

Stylistically these groups drew from the New Orleans four-beat revival approach of George Lewis and Jim Robinson, with a seasoning of Kansas City swing. They fused ensemble polyphony with riffing in an original blend. In contrast to the tuba-inspired, two-beat style popular in San Francisco, the East Bay revivalists often substituted guitar for banjo, generally favoring four-beat rhythm sections with string bass.

For More Information Visit: East Bay Jazz Scene.