The Troy Street Observer

May 29, 1956: Jimmy Tyler Records for Federal

On May 29, 1956, saxophonist Jimmy Tyler recorded “Pink Clouds” backed by “Indian Love Call” for the Federal label with a crack studio band.

Label of Federal 12275
Jimmy Tyler’s “Pink Clouds,” Federal 12275, 1956

Saxophonist Jimmy Tyler, equally at home on alto or tenor, is one of those characters who keeps popping up in these blog posts (March 11, April 24). He was active musically, and often busy behind the scenes as well, in Boston from 1946 to 1963, and then sporadically through the end of the sixties.

Ralph Bass signed Tyler to the Federal label, an R&B-oriented subsidiary of King Records, in 1952. Between 1952 and 1957, Tyler released 14 sides for Federal on 78 and/or 45. Session details are hard to come by in most cases.

The four 1952 sides were recorded by the group formed from the remnants of the Sabby Lewis band in December 1949. “Tippin’ in” (Federal 12067) in particular sounds Lewis-like, not surprising because trumpeter Gene Caines arranged for Lewis before he jumped to Tyler’s group, where he continued to write arrangements even after he left the band. Baritone saxophonist Bill Dorsey was also much in evidence. The best of the lot was the easy-swinging “Little Jim” (Federal 12080), which Tyler co-wrote with Little Benny Harris when that trumpeter was part of the Tyler Orchestra in 1951-52.

There were four 1954 sides, rather run-of-the-mill Federal arrangements, and Tyler is at his most frantic, honking his way through numbers like “Callin’ All Chickens” (Federal 12199).

But on the May 1956 sides Tyler excels, especially on his own tune, “Pink Clouds” (Federal 12275), a song with an unlikely arrangement and a truly good studio band. Tyler is accompanied by just strings and percussion, which separates it from his earlier work for Federal. The studio band included vibraphonist Teddy Charles, with guitarist Mickey Baker, pianist Andy Gibson, bassist Abie Baker, and drummer Cliff Leeman. I’m not sure how Charles ended up on this date; he was involved in music far more sophisticated than this in mid-1956, but here he was with Baker and Leeman, all strong jazz players. There is nothing frantic about Tyler’s playing and he avoids the cliches that make his 1954 work so boring in comparison. Baker gets a chorus, and Leeman does a masterful job of driving the band.

In the late 1940s, when Tyler was with Sabby Lewis and playing much like Illinois Jacquet, he was sometimes called “the wild man of the tenor saxophone.” Although he certainly played his share of honks and squeaks, when he held that bar-walking persona in check, he was a better saxophonist. As he matured as a saxophonist, there was more Jimmy Forrest or Lockjaw Davis about him than Red Prysock.

Dec 14, 2013: I have added “Pink Clouds” to my YouTube channel, so here it is with Jimmy on tenor:



    • Thanks for dropping by–there will be a few more Tyler posts before the year is over. I just found a copy of one of Jimmy’s Federal 45s, “Sha-Gon,” that he wrote with Gil Askey. Jimmy spent 16 years on the Boston scene and more people ought to know about him…

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