Monday, October 10, 2011

Adrian Francis Rollini

Adrian Francis Rollini (June 28, 1903 - May 15, 1956) was a multi-instrumentalist best known for his jazz music. He played the bass saxophone, piano, xylophone, and many other instruments. Rollini is also known for introducing the goofus in jazz music. His major recordings included "You've Got Everything" (1933) on Banner, "A Thousand Good Nights" (1934) on Vocalion, "Davenport Blues" (1934) on Decca, "Nothing But Notes", "Tap Room Swing", "Jitters", "Riverboat Shuffle" (1934) on Decca, and "Small Fry" (1938) on CBS.

He cut many sides under the California Ramblers and formed two subgroups - The Little Ramblers (starting in 1924) and the Goofus Five (1926-1927). It was during his work with these groups that he developed his distinctive style of saxophone playing.

During this time, he managed to lay down hundreds of sessions with names like Annette Hanshaw, Cliff Edwards (Ukelele Ike), Joe Venuti and his Blue Four, The University Six, Miff Mole, and Red Nichols to name a few. Some of his best work appears on the sides he cut with Bix Biederbecke. He also recorded and worked with Roger Wolfe Kahn, Frank Trumbauer, and Red Nichols.

1927 was a landmark year for jazz and Rollini, as not only did he participate in numerous sides, but he also got the job heading up the talent roster for the opening of the Club New Yorker. It was a short-lived organization, a who's-who of 1920s jazz, including Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, Frank Signorelli and Frank Trumbauer.

From across the pond, a young England-based band leader by the name of Fred Elizalde was leading a band in London at the Savoy Ballroom, and he was looking for the best American jazzmen to spice up his already hot sound. He found Rollini, as well as Chelsea Quealey, Bobby Davis, Tommy Felline and Jack Russin. Rollini submitted his resignation to the Ramblers and agreed to join Elizalde, along with fellow-Ramblers Quealey, Felline, Russin, and Davis, in 1927, and stayed until September 1928.

He continued to work, recording with such artists as Bert Lown, Lee Morse, The Dorsey Brothers, Ben Selvin and Jack Teagarden on into the depression and the 30s. However, the 1930s saw a shift in musical idea. In 1932-'33 he was part of a short-lived experiment with the Bert Lown band using two bass saxophones, Spencer Clark in the rhythm section and Rollini himself as fourth sax in the reed team. In 1933 as well he formed the Adrian Rollini Orchestra (a studio group), which appeared on Perfect, Vocalion, Melotone, Banner, and Romeo labels. While Rollini did manage to assemble some great talent (Bunny Berigan, Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden). There are a few examples that stand out, but on the whole the records suffer from a lack of excitement. At this time Rollini also appeared as vibraphonist with Richard Himber's radio orchestra, playing a strictly secondary role in the large, string-oriented ensemble.

His other groups would include the Adrian Rollini Quintette, The Adrian Rollini Trio and Adrian and his Tap Room Gang which was based in the Hotel President at 234 West 48th Street in New York City. He also had the Whitby Grill on West 45th St. He was also making excursions between the Georgian Room and the Piccadilly Circus Bar, both in the Piccadilly Hotel. He also began recording for Master and Muzak.

During this time, a gradual shift occurs in Adrian's focus from the bass sax to the vibraphone. This is not so much that Rollini was giving up on the bass saxophone or his abilities, as that popular tastes had rendered the instrument unmarketable after the hot jazz era of the 20s. Rollini recorded on bass sax for the last time in 1938.

He went on to play hotels, as well as arranging and writing songs behind the scenes, collaborating with such names as Vaughan Monroe. After these, he faded from the scene, appearing here and there and participating in jam sessions. He can be seen in a 1938 short entitled "For Auld lang Syne" starring James Cagney, as well as "Himber Harmonics" (1938) where he appears with the trio, and "Melody Masters: Swing Style" (1939). He also did a brief tour in the late 1940s in which he came to the Majestic Theater in downtown Dallas.

After an exhaustive career he made his last recording with his trio in the early 50s, and then turned his attention fully to the hotel business. He later relocated to Florida, and opened the Eden Roc Hotel in September 1955. Rollini loved sport-fishing, and his Driftwood offered deep-sea fishing charters. After Rollini's death, it appears his wife Dixie left Florida. 

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