Roy Eldridge's 1937 recording of Heckler's Hop is, as every jazz fan knows, dazzling. This broadcast version captures Little Jazz & Co. at the Arcadia Ballroom in August, 1939. Zutty Singleton had been the drummer on the studio recording; by 1939 Eldridge's drummer was Panama Francis, who makes his presence vividly felt in this hard-charging air-check. It's an incomplete performance, starting in mid-bridge, but it's just long enough to capture one of my favorite spontaneous moments in live jazz recording. As Eldridge completes his stratospheric coda, the radio announcer reacts as if he'd just witnessed the repeal of the law of gravity. He totally loses both his cool and, apparently, his power of speech; all he can utter is "Wow!" Listen to the break in the voice: at this moment he's no longer the glib hepcat announcer but just another goggle-eyed fan, like the rest of us.
Thinking about Roy Eldridge, and Panama Francis, conjures more recent memories, of trumpeter and dear friend Spanky Davis. Spanky was Eldridge's protege and chosen successor as leader of the house band at Jimmy Ryan's in the early 1980s. Spanky has preserved the spirit of Roy Eldridge without imitating him, playing with his own quartet, and with Panama Francis' Savoy Sultans (in the Sultans' 1980s reincarnation), Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton, and Frank Sinatra, among many others.