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Anatomy Of A Rebirth

By William Carter

Of the several sources of the worldwide resurgence of traditional jazz, starting in the late 1930s, none was more tangible than the formation of Lu Watters Yerba Buena Jazz Band.  Cricket readers are well aware of many of the musicians and events that for over 70 years have continued to flow, directly or indirectly, from that Bay Area musical wellspring.

Lu's charts jpgs033Your Foundation has just acquired important source materials documenting the formation of the Yerba Buena: Watters’ original, handwritten, spiral-bound, 6-part arrangements dating from the late thirties and/or early forties.  These have been transferred to Stanford University’s Archive of Recorded Sound — now an important repository of regional jazz history and streaming audio.

During his lifetime Watters (1911-1989) was quite free in lending this material to jazz players and aficionados. The charts were often copied and utilized by bands either following closely in his footsteps (such as John Gill’s Yerba Buena Stompers) or utilizing the original arrangements as a loose reference for their own inventions.  Trad jazz enthusiast Dottie Lawless had long been in possession of the spiral-bound originals; at her death they passed to her grandson, Kent Webster. In April, 2015 Mr. Webster, realizing the historic value of this material, handed it to the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation for transfer to Stanford for permanent preservation.

The music pages and brown covers include interesting details, such as marginal references to the fact that Watters composed an original tune, the Antiqua Blues, while on World War II naval duty in the Caribbean.   

Lu's charts jpgs025There is just one gap in this historic collection: the approximately 200 tunes are divided into separate groups, and the first group, about 28 tunes, is missing.  Anyone out there know where those binders are?  The data per se is not lost, because Stanford has the photocopies, but it would be even more wonderful if the full collection of vintage binders could be restored.

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