Mielke and his associates were quite prolific between 1950-2000.
This page contains the best and rarest tapes excerpted from Bob Mielke’s own tape library.
Also included are tapes from the collections of Dick Oxtot, Earl Scheelar, Dave Greer, Oscar Anderson and others.
The passing of trombone player and bandleader Bob Mielke (1927-2020) at age 93 was the result of age and fragility. He was in slow decline for decades, though able to play at parties and special events until recently.
Bob Mielke and The Bearcats Jazz Band, were a distinct and independent voice in the great Traditional Jazz revival that swept through San Francisco and environs in the mid-20th Century.
Mielke was one of the most imaginative trombonists to emerge from the Frisco Revival. His personal trombone style fused elements from Kid Ory’s New Orleans tailgate tradition, the Harlem swing of J.C. Higginbotham and plunger mute techniques of Ellington’s “Tricky Sam” Nanton.
ARCHIVE MUSIC Piano Player Joe Sullivan's band at the Tin Angel, 1961
Joe Sullivan was dwelling in besotted obscurity in San Francisco during the 1950s and ‘60s. But he still ‘had it’ when playing a residency at the Tin Angel on the Frisco waterfront in 1961 or ‘62. Mielke told biographer Jim Goggin that working with him in “a red-hot band . . . was a delight.”
Never previously published or posted, these tracks seem to have been recorded at the Tin Angel. Backing Joe’s magnificent keyboard artistry were cats Mielke was associated with at the time -- the elusive trumpet player Byron Berry, Pete Allen (bass) and drummer Bob Osibin who worked there when Kid Ory ran that club as On the Levee. The bold and luminous clarinet lines of little-known San Francisco native Vince Cattolica are thrilling.
Recorded by Phil Edwards and Bill Ruck for Bud Spangler and KCSM Courtesy of Leon Oakley and Diamondstack Productions
Bob Mielke’s All Star Band (aka) Golden Age Jazz Band NOJCNC Sunday Session 11.16.69
The poor balance of the pickup mars this otherwise fine performance by superb musicians listening carefully to each other. Despite technical shortcomings like off-mic vocals and being monophonic, it’s presented as history and for your enjoyment.
Surprisingly, this is the exact lineup of his New Bearcats of the early 1990s, save for the lead horn.
Jim Goodwin (cornet) Bill Napier (clarinet, soprano) Bob Mielke (trombone) Ray Skjelbred (piano) Dick Oxtot (banjo, vocals) Don Marchant (drums)
Set A1 17:10 I Aint Gonna Give You None of my Jelly Roll When It’s Sleepy Time Down South Barney Google Bye Bye Blues
Set A2 25:15 It Should Be You Bugle Boy March Sing On The Mooche Limehouse Blues (inc)
Set B1 21:40 Ice Cream Wild Man Blues Lindbergh, Eagle of the USA From Monday On
Set B2 16:00 Because I’m Still in Love With You [vocal off mic] Pontchartrain Blues Walkin' with the King
The New Bearcats at Kimball’s East, 1990
Clarinetist Bill Napier and piano player Ray Skjelbred never sounded more eloquent nor articulate than in these clean, in-house professional recordings from Mielke’s residency at Kimball’s East. The musicians were more than just skilled practitioners — gifted virtuosi all. This was an advantageous setting for the Mainstream trumpet stylings of Jack Minger; he’s relaxed and melodic, offering a co-operative horn lead and tasteful soloing.
The New Bearcats also gave Mielke an opportunity to reinterpret a repertory he had been exploring for decades. He and his brilliant musicians found fresh inspiration in tunes from the original Bearcats core repertory: Saturday Night Function, Sing On, 1919 Rag, Weary Blues, Milneberg Joys, Bogalusa Strut and Joseph, Joseph.
There are some discrepancies regarding the sessions dates. Most of the cassettes are dated 1990, some 1991 and his biography Mielke recalled the Kimball East dates as 1992.
ARCHIVE MUSIC New Bearcats, Kimball’s East, 1990
In the early 1990s, Bob created and booked Bob Mielke’s New Bearcats for nightclubs, casuals, Trad Jazz events and festivals with marvelous musicians such as trumpet player Jack Minger, pianist Ray Skjelbred, former Bearcats drummer Don Marchant and clarinetist Napier.
This high-profile gig was one of the first outings of the New Bearcats at Kimball’s East in October 1990 in Berkeley-adjacent Emeryville. Bob was always comfortable singing jazz and popular standards like “Sweet Sue or “When I Take my Sugar to Tea.” “Blue Guaiac Blues” and Django’s “Tears” showcase the superlative tone and improvising of clarinetist Napier.
Here’s a set from the Monkey Inn, 2.1.62 with Bob, Frank Big Boy Goudie (clarinet), Bill Erickson (piano) and Jimmy Carter (drums). “Creole Love Call” is one of Ellington’s silkiest confections and Kid Ory’s “Get Out of Here” conjures the earliest days of New Orleans Jazz.