Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Slim Gaillard

  • Laughing in Rhythm: The Best of the Verve Years [Verve, 1994] A
  • Searching for You: The Lost Singles of McVouty 1958-1974 [Sunset Blvd, 2016] *
  • Groove Juice: The Norman Granz Recordings [Verve, 2018] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Laughing in Rhythm: The Best of the Verve Years [Verve, 1994]
Operating so far to the left of Louis Jordan that he often passed as a weirdo, Gaillard stands as jazz's premier comedian-eccentric, the hepcat as novelty artist to end all novelty artists. Gaillard laughed in rhythm, barked in rhythm, clucked like a chicken in rhythm; he made up his own language, then adapted it to Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Incan; he was so fond of the suffix "rooney" (as in "You got the federation blues-o-rooney") that when introduced to Mickey Rooney he asked what his last name was. Although this 20-song collection from the '50s relegates "Flat Foot Floogie" to a medley and passes over "Cement Mixer (Put-Ti, Put-Ti)" and "Tutti Frutti" (o-rooney?), it swings and yucks whether the song is a remake, a new stroke, or a piece of Tin Pan Alley silliness. Having enjoyed a U.K. vogue before he died at 75 (or 80) in 1991, Gaillard is ripe. Be the first on your block. A

Searching for You: The Lost Singles of McVouty 1958-1974 [Sunset Blvd, 2016]
Having cut the misleadingly titled twist "Frank Rhoads Round" after he turned 50, Gaillard also rerecorded the two career-cementing '30s novelties that made his Verve years possible ("Flat Foot Floogie," "Cement Mixer Putti-Putti") *

Groove Juice: The Norman Granz Recordings [Verve, 2018]
A proudly biracial genius who died at 80 in 1991, Gaillard spent portions of his boyhood on the cruise ships where his German-Jewish father worked as a steward. By the late '30s the silly classics "Flat Foot Floogie" and "Cement Mixer (Putti-Putti)" had established novelty-artist bona fides every bit as as august as those of his heirs Louis Jordan and Spike Jones. Personifying the lost hipster compliment "wiggy," Gaillard fooled with animal sounds and foreign lingo, savored new jargon and here-and-gone trends, and never stopped swinging. Jazz was his milieu, and vocally and instrumentally he had the chops for it. But while nobody needs his "St. Louis Blues" or "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," two of many extras on this double-CD, we can all use an occasional shot of "Laughing in Rhythm," "Chicken Rhythm," "Serenade to a Poodle," "Potato Chips," and "Mishugana Mambo," which are here as well but also featured on 1994's still buyable one-disc Laughing in Rhythm. So while grateful to own "When Banana Skins Are Falling (I'll Come Sliding Back To You)," for instance, I advise that you buy this one only if you already just love the guy or have no other options. Gaillard was a great American, both original and major. B+