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Georgie Price

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5 CD SET: Down Home Blues Chicago: Fine Boogie. WNRCD 5100. www.wienerworld.com

Where to begin!  Peter Moody and Mike Rowe have gathered together 134 tracks by 41 artists to compile a history of the blues in Chicago from the late 1940s to the end of the 1950s. It was a “golden age” dominated musically by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Jimmy Reed; and commercially by first Aristocrat/Chess records and then Vee-Jay. But many other artists and record companies played their parts in the story authoritatively told by Mike Rowe in the excellent eighty-eight page book which illuminates and contextualises the splendid music we hear over these five cds.

 

  Rowe paints a picture of social and musical worlds in transition. The Second World War and the migrations it provoked was fundamental to change. Between 1940 and 1950, one and a half million migrants from the southern states moved to Chicago (and Detroit) and the West. These migrants became the audience for the new “country” blues styles of their fellow musical migrants like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James. Simultaneously, the 1942 -1944 “Petrillo” ban led to a hiatus in recording. When it resumed, the major Race labels (RCA, Columbia, Decca) and their artists such as Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, and Sonny Boy Williamson 1 were no longer dominant in the market. New artists such as Muddy Waters, and new labels like Chess (who recorded him) gave new, “down-home”, migrant audiences, “down-home” music. 

 

  That moment of transition was captured by Lester Melrose at Columbia. Melrose had long been a major figure on the Chicago blues scene, recording much of the city’s major blues talent for RCA Victor. The sides he recorded by the fine but obscure pianist Willie “Long Time” Smith as he evokes his Buddy, Dr, Clayton, hark back to what rather unfairly has been tagged “the Bluebird beat”. I’m a long-time fan of Smith’s few 1947 Columbia sides; he’s an accomplished pianist (able to play in variety of styles) whose titles here are brightened by the jazzy guitar playing of Willie Lacey. 1946 Melrose also produced the first commercial record by Muddy Water then newly arrived in Chicago. Muddy’s voice is instantly recognisable but the band plays very much in style of the “Bluebird” groups and the session remained unissued at the time.

 

  As the booklet notes ( and the sessionography) makes clear, in Chicago  there existed a fluid community of musicians who played together not only on record but also in neighbourhood bars and clubs, and on the Maxwell Street market where many newly arrived migrants from the South like Jimmy Rogers, Othum Brown and Johnny Young (Money Taking Woman is a long standing favourite of mine) got their chance to perform on a Sunday and perhaps, secure a chance to record for newly established and short lived labels like Ora Nelle or Marvel. Their thrilling, stripped down “country blues” sounds pointed the way to what became the post-war Chicago blues.

 

  Thus, a major artist like Little Walter, a main stay of the classic Muddy Waters’ band, who went on to record truly innovative instrumental records like Juke and Blue Midnight (both alternative takes) began as a featured player alongside the little known singer Othum Brown. On fine but obscure sides like Ora Nella Blues/ I Just Love Her (an alternative take of the issued record), Walter’s harp playing  is arrestingly inventive, and he plays brilliantly on Floyd Jones’ unissued Overseas and John Brim’ s very fine Ice Cream Man and Life Time Baby  (favourites of mine since they were first issued on the 1968  album “Tough Times” on Blue Horizon).

 

  Of course, some established stars like Big Maceo, Sonny Boy Williamson 1 and Robert Nighthawk bridged the years to the post–war, “modern” Chicago blues. Robert Nighthawk’s records, especially Black Angel Blues, suggest a musical genealogy looking back to Tampa Red (a neglected great who first recorded the song) and forward to Muddy Waters and Elmore James (It Hurts Me Too).  In themselves, and even with Ethel Mae’s rather pedestrian vocals, Nighthawk’s are splendid records. Likewise, Big Maceo’s sides (here with the great  Johnnie Jones on piano following Maceo’s stroke) are a major source for the playing and singing of the wonderful Otis Spann (I’m Leaving You) and Henry Grey, and a whole cohort of other pianists, but, as always, Maceo’s smoky though now slightly hoarse, voice is compelling. Minnie’s 1952/53 sides (especially Conjur Man) which feature the harmonic playing of Little Walter, are fascinating as she shapes her music to the emerging ensemble sound of the Chicago blues. 

 

  As the book makes clear, the post war Chicago blues was forged by migrants from Mississippi (and Arkansas and Tennessee) and all the big stars - Muddy Waters, Wolf, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson 2 and Jimmy Rogers came from there. So did many of the “minor” stars like Johnny Shines, Sunny land Slim, Floyd Jones, Baby Face Leroy, Johnny Young and Snooky Pryor. Echoes of the Delta are clearly heard in Johnny Shines’ 1946 Tennessee Woman Blues and in his slide masterpiece Ramblin’ - a breath-taking appropriation of a Robert Johnson theme. Similarly, Floyd Jones’ Dark Road with Sunnyland Slim’s tumbling piano figures in support, recalls the music of Tommy Johnson, whilst his rightly celebrated Stockyard Blues comments directly on the working lives of many migrants to Chicago. And as late as 1956, Vee-Jay are recording not only their major and influential blues star, Jimmy Reed,  but also the ramshackle but compelling country blues of Mississippi’s  Po’ Joe Williams.

 

 For Mike Rowe, Muddy Waters’ wonderful 1948 I Can’t Be Satisfied is a key record which marks the beginning of a distinctive, post-war, Chicago style. A reworking of one of his Library of Congress recordings, Muddy’s thrilling slide playing and taut vocals driven by Big Crawford’s bass, exudes a raw vitality and excitement. Muddy’s success with this “southern sound”, showcased here with an alternate takes of the great Rollin’ StoneLong Distance Call  and , soon led to other Mississippi born artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James becoming stars and, in Wolf’s case, rivals. 

 

  Among the many virtues of this compilation is the inclusion of tracks that were unissued at the time, like Muddy’s magnificent You’re Gonna Need My Help and others like Wolf’s You Gonna Wreck My Life which are alternative takes of the issued records.It’s a joy to hear great records like Howlin’ Wolf’s unissued Bluebird and an alternative take of J.B.Lenoir’s Eisenhower Blues - a rare example of overt social comment in the blues.  Sonny Boy Williamson’s originally unissued Don’t Lose Your Eye is a marvellous example of his verbal wit and musical mastery which sits easily next to a masterpiece like his jiving Don’t Start Me to Talking.  In total, this set presents sixty-two sides unissued at the time and twenty two alternative takes of sides that were issued.

 

  By the mid-fifties, Chicago’s music scene was dominated by blues bands often featuring guitars, piano, bass, drums and harmonica or, in Elmore James’ case, J.T. Brown’s saxophone; although in the hands of Walter Horton (listen to his wonderful playing on Shines’ Evening Shuffle) or Little Walter, the harmonica could do anything a sax could do!  James is at his intense best on great sides like 12 Year Old Boy, Coming Home and It Hurts Me Too, and  his influence is  clearly heard  in the singing and slide play of J B Hutto whose  fine unissued Price of Love also features the superb piano playing of Elmore’s long time pianist, Johnnie Jones.

 

  Among many other pleasures, this compilation allows us to reconsider reputations. Thus, Jimmy Rogers is clearly a major artist who to his frustration, seemed always to be seen as a sideman: here is an alternate take of his great, first hit record Ludella, as well Little Store Blues, a fine version of John Estes’ 1944 Liquor Store Blues. Best of all, however, is You’re The One on which Jimmy fronts the classic Muddy Waters’ band with Otis Spann on piano, Little Walter on harp, Francis Clay on drums, and Muddy himself playing guitar: it’s a magnificent performance.

 

  Again, I’m much taken with the playing of Sunnyland Slim both as a named artist and as an accompanist. Often seen as a “journeyman” musician, his solo sides such as Roll and Tumble and his supporting role, on records like J.B. Lenoir’s Let’s Roll and the great Baby Face Leroy’s Blues Is Killing Me, reveal compelling and inventive piano playing of real distinction.

 

Like many of the early post war Chicago artists, Baby Face Leroy was as, his “slurred” vocals suggest, in thrall to John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson whose influence is also apparent in an excellent and uncanny copyist like James McCain. Similarly, Billy Boy Arnold to this day, keeps alive the memory of his mentor whom he evoked, all those years ago, on Hello Stranger and I Ain’t Got No Money. Snooky Pryor, another admirer of Sonny Boy Williamson 1, claimed to be the first to play amplified harp in Chicago. He’s showcased here not only by an alternate take of his splendid Judgement Day (Vee-Jay 215) but also with his lovely playing on Floyd Jones’ Stockyard Blues and Homesick James’ Late Hours At Midnight.

 

  There are many rare sides here which only a handful of collectors will have heard. From 1947 we have Come on Babe, a version of Robert Jr. Lockwood’s Take a Little Walk With Me in which “Blues Boy” Bill (who may be Louis Myers) summons up the other Robert (Johnson)! Albert King’s falsetto vocal also summons up both Roberts (Johnson and Lockwood) on his originally unissued cover of Robert Jr.’s Little Boy Blue.

 

  The obscure Mildred White’s 1949 Kind Hearted Woman is a fine record which it seems she got to record because Guitar Pete Franklin’s was her boyfriend: he plays Leroy Carr influenced piano on it, whilst Tampa Red as always plays beautiful guitar. Grey Haired Bill, apparently a stalwart of Maxwell Street, made his one record for the Atomic H label. It features his vocal and guitar playing supported by an unknown saxophone player taking the harmonica role.

 

  All in all, this is an exemplary reissue with excellent remastering of extremely rare records and often battered acetates by Glenn Keiles. Mike Rowe’s book - length “notes” distil a life time of research into Chicago’s blues and its makers, offering not only biographies of the many musicians who created this beautiful music but also a vivid picture of the world they inhabited and the social and historical forces that shaped it. There is a full sessionography and a generous selection of evocative photographs, some familiar to me but others, like one of Grey Haired Bill, completely new. There are also a couple of minor glitches in that a paragraph about J. B. Hutto is repeated, and on the first cd the track order (11 and 12) is reversed, but they do nothing to detract from the excellence of this set.

 

  In a “preview” of this reissue (Blues & Rhythm No.320, June 2017) compiler Peter Moody made clear that none of the tracks presented here duplicated titles on the ground breaking reissues on the Boulevard Vintage label:  the four CD set – “Down Home Blues Classics Chicago 1946-1954” (BVBC1014Z) or the CD devoted to Chicago and Detroit on the introductory four - CD compilation “Down Home Blues Classics 1943-1953 (BVBCD10032).

 

  This is a magnificent achievement by all concerned, and unreservedly recommended.

Henry Thomas

 

CD: THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG 1923: King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. 28 tracks HQdiscs HQ03. £10 + p&p. Available from Dave Bennett at blackbird@waitrose.com

I don’t propose to take up a lot of space talking about the musical content of the individual tracks here, as I doubt many of you reading this are unfamiliar with the actual music on this new CD, which contains re-masterings of the King Oliver output for Gennett, Okeh and Columbia – only the mythically rare coupling on Gennett of Zulus Ball and Working Man’s Blues, and the final two titles from the last OKeh session are missing from these 1923 sessions - for reasons of space, I imagine, as there are already 28 tracks crammed onto this disc! On the other hand, if you aren’t well acquainted with these sides, then this compilation is the best introduction you could find.

 

  So however well you know the material, I don’t think you’ll ever have heard it in the amazing sound quality achieved in these transfers. Each original 78 has been painstakingly processed to extract every possible microhertz of tonal response from the grooves of the highest quality copies that Dave Bennett, the producer, could lay his hands on. And in spite of the total absence of surface noise, the digital processing means there’s no loss of response in the higher frequencies: there is more of the original studio sound here than you could imagine. Some earlier re-issues have certainly brought out the vibrancy of Johnny Dodds’ clarinet and the searing blues tone of Oliver’s and Armstrong’s cornets – but there’s almost always been a greater or lesser degree of muddiness on the analogue re-masterings or often shrillness on those digitally re-processed. How he’s done it I don’t know, but Dave Bennett has managed to extend the sound reproduction range in both directions, without excess sharpness at the top or rumble at the bottom. To judge from the credits on the CD cover, it’s a combination of cartridge quality, amplification electronics and digital filtering, along with a dose of pure inspiration!

 

  The result is what matters and, for the first time, Lil Hardin’s piano is clearly audible in all the ensembles, especially on the Gennett sides, her chords echoing on behind the brass and revealing a great deal more ‘lift’ and swing than I had ever before noticed; even the drums come filtering through. On Jazzin’ Babies Blues, for example (on OKeh), you can now distinctly hear the low register harmonies backing the trombone solo and throughout the disc the different ensemble voices of the front line have a broadness of separation that is entirely absent from some earlier reissues. Again, on Alligator Hop, the piano rings out with clarity – and how pleasant to hear this side re-mastered from an obviously pristine copy, without any of the distortion and wear that usually blights all the issues from this session for Gennett. On the sister track, Krooked Blues, the saxes are, again for the first time, really evident in the ensembles, which are crystal clear.

  Listening to Chattanooga Stomp, it’s interesting to note that nothing has been done to try and change the original studio balance (as opposed to bringing out the best sound quality possible): on this particular side, the banjo is unduly prominent, whilst the brass sound somewhat distant. But, as we hear in brilliant clarity, the engineers on the following day’s session had corrected this anomaly – and not only that, the banjo and piano accompaniment to the clarinet are audible note for note, chord for chord, with a depth of sound you will almost certainly not have heard before. Tears opens with a repeated phrase with a clarinet break after the second; but in the two-beat silence after the first, there’s a strangled half-note – from Dodds, or possibly Johnny St. Cyr – mistaking this for the break after the second phrase? Or Baby Dodds giving a ‘tap’ beat? – something I’d never been aware of before!

 

  The University of Louis Armstrong is the first of several issues documenting his early years, and it’s fitting that his contributions to the Oliver band are unusually finely reproduced in this set. The vibrato in his breaks at the end of Riverside Blues have a fullness of sound that’s almost as good as on his later electric recordings – and you can’t ask for better than that! However many of the sides you possess on 78, this CD is a must, if only to alert you to what to listen out for, and what you may have missed…a truly extraordinary feat of re-processing. Roll on volume 2…

Max Easterman

 

FILM + CD / LP: SICILY JASS The World’s First Man in Jazz

Directed by Michele Cinque. Sicily Jass. €19   www.sicilyjass.com

The core of this set is the film: you can choose it with either a CD, or an LP compilation of eight original Victor tracks by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (Livery Stable Blues, Original Dixieland One-Step, Jazz Band Ball, Ostrich Walk, Tiger Rag, Sensation Rag, Clarinet Marmalade and Fidgety Feet), each accompanied by a recording of the same tune by a slightly later group: from Red Nichols and Bix Beiderbecke to Louis Armstrong and Joe Venuti. All the tracks are excellently re-mastered by Nick Dellow. The aim is to allow quick comparisons of both treatment and musical style, but as most of you reading this will have the originals in your collections in one format or another, a detailed analysis of the music is unnecessary, especially as it’s only partly relevant to the content of the film, which is about the life of the ODJB’s nominal leader, Nick LaRocca. That may strike you as a somewhat curious statement, but this is a somewhat curious film.

 

  It’s obvious Michele Cinque, the writer and  director, is deeply attached to the LaRocca story, but this sometimes leads him to assume too much of his audiences. That LaRocca’s family hailed from Sicily is well enough known to those of us who are jazz buffs, but whether that fact is more widely known or had anything to do with his subsequent musical activities is hardly touched upon – perhaps because it didn’t. The film opens with, and frequently returns to scenes in a ruined village in Sicily, in which an elderly man, who eventually is revealed as a puppet-master, conducts dialogues with his puppets about LaRocca’s life in America. It’s not explained that this kind of puppet theatre is a Sicilian artistic tradition; nor are we told until a few minutes before the film’s ending that the village is Salaparuta, destroyed by an earthquake in 1968, which was the LaRocca family’s home before they emigrated to New Orleans in the 1880s. Seasoned fans of the ODJB will no doubt understand the significance of at least some these sequences, but audiences that know little or nothing about the band and its leader will, I think, be somewhat puzzled by them. From time to time, an Italian marching band appears in the abandoned streets, from which a five-man detachment plays some jazz round a brand-new grand piano and drum kit incongruously set up in the central square. The relevance of all this is never explained for the non-jazz audience and often gets in the way of the documentary side of the film …but then, SiciliaFilm is one of the sponsors of the project and they no doubt demanded that Sicily be right up there with the man himself.

 

  You may cavil that I am being unnecessarily cynical, but I really don’t quite get what Michele Cinque is trying to achieve: this is an arthouse-style production – Fellini meets Ken Burns, with all the potential paradoxes that implies; and its documentary side sits rather uncomfortably with the emblematic and allusive references to times and places. So what we get are some fascinating insights but, in the end, a film about places, people and ideas rather than the man and his music. The pity is that the producers have assembled a strong cast of luminaries, many of whom knew Nick LaRocca intimately, including his son Jimmy, Eddie Edwards’ grandson, and several high-profile critics and historians, such as Bruce Raeburn and Dan Morgenstern (whose name is unfortunately spelt wrongly throughout!), but their contributions are too often lost in the business of artsy and occasionally irrelevant cutaways. Our own estimable editor, Mark Berresford, features several times and tells an important part of the story, but I am at a loss to see what seeing him feeding the hens while speaking off camera achieves. The director apparently wanted to show how the ODJB’s sojourn in England was ‘atmospherically’ different from the aridity of Sicily and the heat of New Orleans – hence the damp and mist of rural Derbyshire. I do wonder if it wouldn’t have made more sense to use archive footage of the Hammersmith Palais on a wet Saturday night here?

 

  There are in fact several pieces of wonderful archive film, which I had never seen before and would like to have seen much more of, but they come and go too quickly, are often not commented on and sometimes seem to be there simply to ‘cover’ another piece of commentary, the relevance of which to the images on the screen is not immediately clear.  The individual parts of this film sometimes just don’t come together; and other bits of ‘business’ get in the way of the narrative. The main points are made well enough: how the ODJB took the world by storm (their first Victor coupling broke sales records, but estimates of the actual number vary from 250 thousand - on the LP sleeve – to a million and a half in the film); how they fell out of favour as musical styles changed and the critics of jazz hit back; that LaRocca’s self-aggrandisement led to unsustainable friction with the rest of the band; and that he ultimately descended into racism and xenophobia, including his claim that jazz was the creation of only white musicians. But then there are the contradictions, such as the superimposing of black musicians and dancers over snatches of the ODJB’s music, without any explanation of the irony this implies.

 

  In sum, this film tells us much – but could have told us so much more. Its pace and style are gentle and reflective, but the subject – LaRocca - is too tough and the pace of his story too frenetic for this to work the way I imagine the director wanted it to. LaRocca was an abrasive character and the film needs a harder edge to ram that fact home. For example, we get a statement to the effect that he went about establishing his place in jazz history “in the wrong way”, but this wrong way isn’t explained in plain language. His attitudes to black musicians demand a real response, especially as there have been so many attempts to rehabilitate him. This is not a bad or boring film: much of it is very enjoyable and very revealing: Nick LaRocca was not a musical Neanderthal, but neither was he the towering genius he claimed to be… and that distinction doesn’t come over as clearly as it should for audiences that are not jazz cognoscenti.

Max Easterman

 

2 CD SET : RUTH BROWN : Four Classic Albums: “ Ruth Brown – Rock & Roll”, “ Ruth Brown - Miss Rhythm” “ Ruth Brown – Late Date With Ruth Brown”, “Ruth Brown – Along Comes  Ruth”. Avid AMSC1265. www.avidgroup.co.uk

This CD gathers together the following albums: Atlantic 8004 (1957), Atlantic 8026 (1959), Atlantic SD 130 (1959) and Philips PHM-200-028 (1962). Well remastered by Nick Dellow and complete with the original sleeve notes, they chart the early career of the most popular female R&B artist of the 1950s.

 

  Influenced by the great jazz vocalists( just listen to So Long)  of the late ‘30s and ‘40s- Sarah Vaughn, Diana Washington and, above all, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald – and almost inevitably by her gospel back ground, Ruth Brown (1928-2006) was the first big star of Atlantic Records. Her hits Tear Drops (1950). “5-10-15” (1952), Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean (1953), and Mambo Boy (1954) helped establish the label and her reputation as a versatile vocalist who could sing in a number of styles: blues, pop, r&b and gospel inflected, soul. It was Herb Abramson at Atlantic who noted “the tear in her voice”, a kind of cracked falsetto “catch” in her singing which made it instantly recognisable.

 

  The first two albums in this set are essentially compilations of her Atlantic singles, and they show what an eclectic performer she was. From the charming pop of Leiber and Stoller’s Lucky Lips and the rhumba beat of Daddy, Daddy to  her elegant, up- tempo treatment of Old Man River and the frenetic blues shouting, rock and roll  which makes Hello Little Boy an exciting record, Ruth Brown demonstrated a vivacity which lifted even the more banal material like Show Me. To my taste, she’s at her best on rocking blues like Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean, which features the fine guitar playing of Mickey Baker, and the excellent, slow It’s Love Baby, although I must admit that I also enjoyed her swinging version of Sentimental Journey. Her engaging doo wop ballad What A  Dream (1954) with Arnett Cobb’s fine tenor solo,  points to the  proto-soul records she was to make a decade later, and in complete contrast, Jack O’ DiamondsCan’t Hear a Word You Say  is a rocking ballad that looks back to some of  the earliest folk-blues traditions. is a wry, amusing account of an A&R man’s attempt to seduce the singer with offers of recording success! Best of all, however, is the wonderful, slow ballad Book of Lies where her debt to Billie Holiday is palpable.

 

  That debt to Lady Day and others is clear in her splendid “afters-hours” album, “Late Date with Ruth Brown” where she performs songs by some of America’s finest popular song writers accompanied by the Richard West orchestra. Outstanding, in this big band setting, are her reading of Rogers and Hart’s Bewitched, her driving treatment of You and the Night and the Music and a great version of Irving Berlin’s Let’s Face the Music and Dance. In mellower mood, she sings beautifully on I’m Beginning to See the Light and I Loves You Porgy. This is immaculate popular music and I enjoyed it very much.

 

  In the early 1960s, Ruth Brown’s career faltered as the “British Invasion” of often r&b inspired groups, changed the course of popular music in the USA, but her 1962 album “Along Comes Ruth” not only captures her response to that moment – listen to the “beat” guitar playing on the remake of Mama, He treats your daughter Mean (and compare to Mickey Baker’s on the original), but also highlights her role as a pioneer singer of soul. The powerful ballad Cry, Cry, Cry is a wonderful, gospel inspired performance (with its exhortation “cry me a river”) as are the dramatic Sea of Love and So Little Time which showcase her vocal power and range.

 

  During the 1970s and 80s, Ruth Brown resumed her career - as a film and television actress, comedian and singer, winning a “Tony” award for her performance in “Black and Blue”, and appearing in John Waters’ cult film “Hairspray”.

 

  The discs under review capture her in her heyday, and offer many listening pleasures. Buy it (especially at Avid’s bargain price) and see for yourself!

Henry Thomas

 

CD : BUNNY BERIGAN & HIS BOYS: Feb 1936 – Feb 1937. 24 tracks Retrieval RTR 79083 www.challengerecords.com

One of the curious things about collectors of 78s today is how few of them seem to be interested in the music of the 1930s, in particular that of the small groups that thronged the clubs and dives on ‘Swing Street’ – 52nd Street, in Manhattan. It’s almost as if the, yes, often mechanical arrangements of the big bands have blocked out the superb music being played by the heirs to Beiderbecke, Nichols and the Austin High School gang.

 

  Bunny Berigan was one of those heirs, from a just slightly later generation, but he came up the same way as many who were better known at the time: working anonymously in college, dance and show bands. According to Hal Kemp, as quoted in Chris Ellis’ liner notes, Berigan’s early playing was marred by “the tinniest, most ear-splitting tone you ever heard”. A couple of years later, he’d improved enough for Kemp to hire him to replace Jack Purvis. Purvis was an Armstrong acolyte – one of the growing number among white trumpet players and one of the few who could match Armstrong’s range and power. Berigan, by this time, had developed a similar range and power, though allied with a much smoother tone than Purvis. He travelled to Europe with the Kemp organization in 1930 and recorded with Van Phillips in London, though producing nothing of interest to the jazz enthusiast. Indeed, much of the early 30s was a period when Berigan was effectively ‘buried’ in stock arrangements, whether with Fred Rich, a Broadway pit orchestra or the ARC house band, where he made his first records issued under his own name. His big break came in Summer 1935 when he joined the Benny Goodman band (replacing Pee Wee Erwin), which went on tour to California and also made its superb recording of King Porter Stomp. Berigan’s solo on this title regularly brought the house down and made his name.

 

  He left Goodman in late 1935 and joined CBS Radio, which gave him the opportunity to freelance and make the records with ‘His Boys’ that are re-issued on this CD (as well as many others with Frank Froeba, Dick McDonough and Red McKenzie). These sessions were obviously scheduled to join the many others recorded for issue on the Vocalion label by ARC as part of their commitment to filling juke boxes and the public’s record shelves with the latest dance hits at 35¢ a time. In spite of this, the majority of Berigan’s sides are pretty well pure jazz: he seems to have been able to pick his own sidemen, though he did have to include vocals and use ARC’s house vocalist, Chick Bullock, on many of them. But then, Bullock was a sight better than most of the studio crooners of the period and had a strong rhythmic style, not unlike Bing Crosby’s.

 

  He acquits himself well enough on the first title, It’s Been So Long, which features fine tenor and clarinet solos from Bud Freeman and Joe Marsala, while Berigan himself dominates I’d Rather Lead a Band in an effortless performance, after which Freeman contributes one of his inimitable serpentine codas. Pianist Joe Bushkin has a fine solo on Let Yourself Go, ably backed by Dave Tough on drums. What in particular emerges from this first session is the relaxed swing of the band, much of which is due to the light touch of Dave Tough, even on the faster numbers; on Swing Mr Charlie, the lesser known but very able tenor saxist Forrest Crawford plays a booting chorus, followed by Bushkin and Tough once again and a fine ensemble ride-out, in which Berigan is to the fore but never outplaying the others.

 

  The next session produced Berigan’s stand-out number, which became his signature tune when he formed a big band a year later, I Can’t Get Started. He recorded it for Victor and this 12-inch record remains his best known, but his Vocalion version is, for my money, far better: less showmanlike, with a wonderful swing, lovely clarinet noodling – by Artie Shaw - behind Berigan’s vocal and a perfectly poised trumpet finale, one of the few occasions when Berigan hits a high note in pure Armstrong fashion, but then shows just how good he is by dropping to the lowest possible register on the trumpet and still remaining in full control. A Little Bit Later On is almost as good a side, though played much faster but with just the same poise and control throughout. I first heard this on a Columbia ‘Swing Street’ LP issued back in the 60s, and it was an instant favourite: I spent the next 20 years trying to find a 78 copy!

 

  I Nearly Let Love Go Slipping Through My Fingers is one of the few numbers on which Chick Bullock sounds ill at ease, which is a great pity, because the band performs particularly well, in spite of the fact that there’s no tenor sax on this session and is replaced by a trombone; the ensemble has a ‘slimmer’ sound as a result. Clarinettist Slats Long has a less full tone than Joe Marsala, but plays a fine solo on But Definitely, as does Jack Lacey on trombone: he’s a much under-rated player. The drummer on this – and the previous – session is Cozy Cole and he can be heard enthusiastically driving the band forward on If I Had My Way. The final track from this session, When I’m With You, is in a more muted, smoother style and perhaps presages things come in that respect.

 

  By late 1936, the band had grown to nine members and been moved to ARC’s premier label, Brunswick. Berigan himself was more obviously being promoted as the star, and on That Foolish Feeling closes the track with one of what was to become his trademark high register codas. This is nonetheless a fine up tempo jazz record in the style of the earlier sessions, while Where Are You? In A Little Spanish Town is rather more restrained, though featuring some nice tenor sax from Babe Russin. is given a spirited treatment, with solos all round and no vocal, which may account for the fact that it was not issued at the time, and only appeared on a ‘Special Edition’ and a much later Columbia showcase issue after Berigan’s early death.

 

  The band Berigan used for his final two Brunswick sessions was the forerunner of the big swing band he recorded with for Victor for most of the rest of his career. His move to Brunswick was proof of his enhanced status, but that label was aimed at a more sophisticated market and this shows in the heavily arranged music the band had to play, inevitable perhaps with a four- to five-man brass section and three saxes. Both The Goona Goo and Blue Lou are excellent jazz records, but their session mates – Who’s Afraid of Love?, One in a Million – are less successful, though Matty Matlock has a fine solo spot on the second title. The trend continues in the final session: I’m Gonna Kiss Myself Goodbye has little to recommend it beyond Berigan’s solo interjections in the final chorus: the rhythm section is distinctly jerky in places (and is made up largely of unknowns). Big Boy Blue is better, because of Berigan’s high octane solo and some fine tenor from Art Drelinger. Fortunately, the last two numbers are so much better from the jazz point of view and mark something of a return to the earlier, free-wheeling style. Dixieland Shuffle is a re-working of King Oliver’s Riverside Blues, though the original composers (Thomas A. Dorsey and Richard M. Jones) receive no credit for it – and on the British Vocalion and Decca issues, it’s credited to ‘Haggard – La Mar - Matlock’! Matty Matlock was freelancing from the Bob Crosby band and may have been instrumental in getting this track recorded. It includes a string of top class solos, with a controlled tightly-muted trumpet opening from Berigan, followed by clarinet, trombone and a second clarinet, interspersed with some lovely ensemble work, very reminiscent of the earlier band. After I Can’t Get Started, this is the best of his ARC recordings. Let’s Do It is almost as good and is taken at a fast tempo, which gives no quarter to Cole Porter’s original concept: Ford Leary, Slats Long and Berigan deliver blistering solos on what is an excellent finale to the CD.

 

  Bunny Berigan’s later career was dogged by alcoholism, disastrous relationships with the women in his life, and an even more disastrous bankruptcy that finished off his Victor big band. He must have been one of that label’s youngest star bandleaders: he died in 1942 at the age of 33. With the few exceptions noted above, the tracks on this CD remind us just what a powerful and inventive musician he was, yet one who always knew that a band is a collaborative effort: he never tried to outplay his fellow musicians. If you don’t have these recordings on shellac, this CD, with its high quality remastering, is an ear-opener.

Max Easterman

 

CD: ALEX MENDHAM & HIS ORCHESTRA: ON WITH THE SHOW. Available through www.alexmendham.com

Alex Mendham leads a London-based big band that brings the arrangements and spirit of 1920s and 1930s jazz and dance music to modern ears. In this collection, he departs from his usual mix of hot jazz and dance to offer a glitzy Gershwin-Porter-Berlin-Ellington assortment. Critics of long ago would label this “society stuff” and “hotel swing” which means that hot solos are the seasoning but not the essence of the arrangements – like the recordings of Leo Reisman, for  example.  In this set, the focus is on rich arrangements of songs that are now regarded as “The Great American Songbook” with a few aspirants thrown in.

 

  As usual with Alex, the musicianship is top quality and it has to be with some of these difficult arrangements. The first four songs, Shall We Dance, Let Yourself Go, Cheek to Cheek and Night and Day, are an homage to Fred Astaire who, of course, made his mark on the London stage in the early and mid-1920s, and lives on today with the younger generation in oft-rebroadcast classic films of a decade later. Alex has truly absorbed much of his elegant vocal style.

 

  Caravan is an intriguing arrangement that sounds influenced by Raymond Scott while What is this Thing Called Love has a Bubber Miley intro – a bit more lowdown than Leo would have liked but welcome here. Hot Lips, certainly not an entry in the “songbook” but a big band standard since Paul Whiteman’s 1922 recording, is faithful to the composer (Henry Busse) but swingier. An odd choice is The Broken Record which was a 1935 “B” list tune recorded by Wingy Mannone, the hook of which is repeated phrases of “I Love You” like a repeating dig in an old 78.

 

  Most of the vocals are carried by the Dunlop Sisters (Serena and Hanna) who have been with Alex since 2016. Nobody Cares if I’m Blue brings us a tribute to Annette Hanshaw with Serena Dunlop taking the songstress’ parts. Mae West’s I’m No Angel with sister Hannah taking the honors is another. Alex, of course is the vocalist on the “Astaire” tracks and, as noted above does the master more than justice.

 

  It’s been my misfortune that Alex and his orchestra were not playing on dates I have been in London – maybe I will be lucky this fall – but this collection eases the disappointment. Get and revel in the classiness of it.

RUSS SHOR

 

CD: IRVING MILLS’ HOTSTY TOTSY GANG, 1930, PLUS SOME WHOOPEE MAKERS. Retrieval RTR79084.  www.challengerecords.com

If enjoying some of the best musical talent on the New York scene in the late 1920s is your pleasure then this well- presented CD from Retrieval is certainly for you.  Under the generic title of Irving Mills’ Hotsy Totsy Gang we are treated to a real insight into this, often neglected, area of hot music.  Much of this material  was issued on a set of Retrieval LPs in the 1980s with excellent liner notes by the late lamented Dave Carey now adapted and represented by Retrieval’s Chris Ellis.

 

  Often these reissues get bogged down in the repetitive morass of take after alternative take, but this CD, although it has some alternative takes, flows well and I never felt the need to skip tracks while listening to it.  There is contained in the tracks a well-balanced variety of tempos, arranging styles, melodies and hot solos.  One has the rare opportunity, for example, to compare three of the finest white trombone players of the time; Miff Mole, Tommy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden, all presented in a similar setting. Hearing the variety of trumpet and cornet styles gives the greatest satisfaction and holds one almost spellbound throughout.

 

  The CD leads off well with At The Prom, which contains good section work from the reeds and brass driven along well by the excellent drumming of Dillon Ober.  There then follows part of a radio broadcast introduced by Irving Mills himself. Nobody's Sweetheart Now contains some good solo work from Jimmy Dorsey, Manny Klein and a  welcome glimpse of Babe Russin on tenor saxophone. The whole cuts along well. The vigorous Harvey exhibits Arnold Brilhardt on superb lead alto.  Other noteworthy solos are Hoagy Carmichael, Russin and Klein.  There's what might be termed a novelty vocal from Hoagy, but the outstanding feature of this piece is the good and punchy work from  the brass section.

 

The interesting and modern sounding Manhattan Rag is a fine arrangement and the musicians give it their all.  What Kind Of Man Is You is another Carmichael composition which holds the attention particularly well, alongside some warm saxes with sympathetic trombone obligato from Miff Mole.  At a slightly brisker pace is My Little Honey and Me with drummer Chauncey Morehouse and the rhythm section emphasising the offbeat.  Possibly Jimmy Dorsey, on clarinet,  can take 'credit' for the tribute to Ted Lewis, though The Editor suggests it may well be Arnold Brilhardt, citing by way of comparison his solo on Yerkes S.S. Flotilla Orchestra’s 1922 Vocalion of Some Sunny Day.  The ensemble is supported effectively by Joe Tarto.  Miff Mole is featured in the last middle eight with, for him, some rare muted trombone work.  High and Dry is a good stompy number which includes Cornell Smelser on piano accordion and a typical Carmichael vocal. There follows an instrumental version of the same number, which for me has greater spirit.  In a similar vein Barbaric shows off wonderful section work from the saxes, and a change of tempo brings a more bluesy feel to the piece with Carmichael 'moanin' in style.  I Wonder What My Girl Is Doin' Now has a nice melody with a descending chord sequence and has good scope for the solos by Benny Goodman and 'unknown' baritone sax.  Another good jazzy composition that lends itself well to solos is Crazy 'Bout My Gal. Jack Pettis leads the soloists, and its good to hear Al Goering's piano either side of a surprisingly inventive violin solo by Matty Malneck.  Railroad Man is great hot melody dating back to 1923, played with great spirit.  With solos from Pettis, Klein & Goodman this stands for me as one of the classic tracks on the album.  We now move to the peak of performance with Loved One in two takes, Deep Harlem and Strut Miss Lizzie.  All these numbers create a glorious atmosphere and, with the great Bix Beiderbecke and Jack Teagarden amongst others present, these numbers speak for themselves.  The next five numbers are acoustically recorded, but this is not the main reason they appear somewhat pleasant and ordinary compared with the others. The last three do not benefit from the rather straight nasally vocals of Irving Kaufman.  St James Infirmary, When You’re Smiling and Farewell Blues complete the CD, and it is worth listening out to the difference that the Teagarden brothers make when working together.  Ray Bauduc demonstrates an affinity with the new Krupa style of drumming and presages a move towards the swing era.

                                      

  There are however, a few negatives,  which in this case is not the fault of the CD or its production.  I must admit I am not a fan of Harry Goodman on bass, skilled as he certainly was.  I always find his playing unconvincing and almost indifferent in its approach.  It's unfortunate that he plays on so many of the tracks, as such an important instrument, indifferently played,  has an almost subversive effect on the rest of the rhythm section.  If one compares these recordings with the Jack Pettis sessions, recorded with similar players at a similar time, the latter swing like hell when needed, whereas thanks to Mr H. Goodman the whole ensemble can sound laboured.  Not the best grounding for hot musical expression.  None of this however dampens the overall enjoyment of the CD.  The sheer quality of the music transcends the apparent deficiency of one player, no matter how important a role he may serve.

 

  The original recording quality occasionally leaves something to be desired, particularly the few acoustic recordings.  Although it may seem churlish to point this out, I have recently had the pleasure of hearing Dave Bennett's  amazing remastering of the King Oliver Creole Band on HQ Discs (see review in this issue) and a little of Dave's guidance and  wisdom in the production of this CD may have borne a richer harvest indeed.

 

  A great plus, it has to be said, is having a rare radio broadcast to savour. It is particularly fascinating as it provides a real insight in to how these musicians sounded live, not constrained by the formality of a recording studio. Throughout, the CD maintains a high standard and I would recommend it thoroughly.

SEAN BOLAN

 

CD AND 2-CD SET: THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG, 1925-1926. HQ02/ RECORDED IN NEW ORLEANS, VOL 1, 1924-1929. HQ01. HQ Discs. £13.50 + p&p. Available from Dave Bennett at blackbird@waitrose.com

Two interesting new issues on new label HQ. Discs, which may be of interest to collectors of historical recordings with a revised approach to sound transfers. The issues comprise a classic single CD and a double featuring location recordings.

 

 To consider the single CD first, the full output of the Louis Armstrong Hot Fives which are, I imagine, already represented in most collections, either in full or in part and in various forms, 78s, LPs or CDs. In the main, the Hot Fives are essential tracks and it’s nice to have these collected together on a single CD chronologically. They were the first recordings issued under Louis Armstrong’s name and the last acoustic recordings made for the OKeh label by him. Many of the tracks here should be an essential inclusion in all collections concerned with the history of jazz music including the first issues of Come Back Sweet Papa, Heebie Jeebies, Muskrat Ramble and Big Butter and Egg Man. The odd four tracks here are the three by Lil’s Hot Shots and the Butterbeans and Susie He Likes It Slow.

 

 Apart from the Hot Sevens, which started in 1927 and are electrical recordings anyway, these were very well integrated, probably the last Louis Armstrong issues with a purely New Orleans front line, all of whom had played together over the years, although there were already signs that Armstrong was about to break out of the confines of the New Orleans style. This was probably due to the period he had spent in New York as a member of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra which had encouraged his individual brilliance to emerge. The last two tracks on the CD has Kid Ory replaced, probably by Henry Clark on trombone from the Marion Hardy Band, most likely  because Ory was on the road with King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators. The other three odd tracks are the three Lil Armstrong Vocalions, two takes of Drop That Sack and Georgia Bo Bo. I found the sound on the CD very acceptable with good overall sound and noise reduction.

 

  I am led to believe by Dave Bennett that this is actually the second in what he hopes to be a ‘Complete Louis Armstrong on Commercial Discs’ project - the first volume covers the complete output of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band which, is reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

 

 The other issue is a double CD entitled Recorded in New Orleans. The first CD is made up of black bands and the second of white groups, apart from two alternative takes tacked on the end. 

   

 These recordings were made by mobile recording units touring the southern States. Recording varies from acoustic for the earlier recordings to electrical as the technology improved. To deal with the tracks in order the first CD starts with the two tracks by the Fate Marable Band a group partially composed of New Orleans musicians - trumpets and rhythm, playing on the Streckfus Riverboat based in the Crescent City. These are followed by two tracks from Billy and Mary Mack’s touring group which are notable for being the first recordings by Punch Miller. Following these four titles recorded for OKeh are eight made by Victor where the featured group is Louis Dumaine’s Jazzola Eight, a group highlighting the clarinet of William ‘Kaiser’ Joseph whose only recordings these were, together with Earl Humphrey on trombone and Louis James on sax, subsequently a string bass player during the revival period. The first two Dumaine tracks are vocals by Genevieve Davis, assisted on the second by banjoist Leonard Mitchell, followed by four band tracks, two of which, Pretty Audrey and Ta-Wa-Bac-A-Wa were highly sought-after ‘glamour’ sides for early British jazz collectors as they were issued on English HMV in 1927. Finally two tracks by Ann Cook with an alternative take of Mama Cookie Blues at the end of the CD.

 

 Dumaine was a good straightforward trumpet player and teacher, and the group playing on this date reflects his leadership ability in addition to good individual performances. In the 1930s he led the W.P.A Band and remained active in music thereafter. His last known recording was for Joe Mares Jr, in the early 1950s, but this was never issued.

 

  The Dumaine’s are followed by the six tracks recorded by  Sam Morgan’s Jazz  Band for Columbia, possibly best known for being trombonist Jim Robinson’s first recordings. The original recordings were not very well balanced with the brass to the rear behind the prominent reeds and the rhythm. The recording of a hymn proved unexpectedly popular and as a consequence Columbia reissued two of them back to back. Sam Morgan was one of the finest cornet players in the city until he suffered a stroke in 1925 and although he resumed playing well again by the time of these recordings he had the help of his brother Isiah on second cornet to help out. Apart from Jim Robinson, both Isiah and Andrew Morgan (on reeds) continued to record into the revival period. 

 

  The first CD is completed by the four titles recorded by the Jones & Collins Astoria Hot Eight, a band put together for the recording session for Victor with two alternate takes by the band included at the end of the second disc. This was an exciting band featuring the trumpet work of Lee Collins and, with the addition of Sidney Arodin on clarinet, carries the reputation of being the first mixed race band to record in the city. Co-leader Davey Jones, also present on the Fate Marable sides, was a well respected musician and teacher who made the arrangements for this session, and restricted himself to tenor sax on this set. Many of the musicians in this group continued into the 1930s and beyond.

 

  The second CD of this set is primarily devoted to the white or dixieland bands starting with the six tracks recorded in New Orleans by Johnny De Droit. Possibly one of the earliest sessions recorded by the Okeh mobile recording unit and typical of the white band output at this time. It is interesting to note the interchanging of musicians in the white groups over the years the mobile units operated. For instance De Droit’s trombonist Russ Papalia recorded with his own band for Okeh the following year (on tracks 11 and 12).

 

 The De Droits are followed by two tracks of the Original Crescent City Jazzers, bringing to the fore trumpeter Sterling Bose, who was to carry on into the swing era. These appear to be his only recordings in New Orleans before he moved to St. Louis to play with the Arcadian Serenaders and then to Jean Goldkette and on into the swing era. Then two tracks by the Johnny Bayersdorffer Jazzola Novelty Orchestra, another l924 OKeh recording which was an early and eagerly-sought issue on English Parlophone. Featured musicians are Nunzio Scaglioni on clarinet and trombonist Tom Brown whose Band From Dixieland in 1915 Chicago is reported to have germinated the use of the word ‘Jazz’ in relation to the music. These are followed by the two Russ Papalia tracks, an eight piece band which doesn’t really translate into the Society Dance Orchestra which Papalia was known to have led for many years.

 

 Following these are two tracks by John Hyman’s Bayou Stompers a group including Nappy Lamare on guitar and Monk Hazel on drums. Hyman, perhaps better known from his later work as Johnny Wiggs, was a cornettist influenced by King Oliver and Bix Beiderbecke and this is reflected in his later work. He recorded into the 1940s and 50s with his own and other groups and was also known as an authoritative source on the history of the music. Then the four tracks by Joe Mannone’s  Harmony Kings, a group formed to play at the Ringside Cafe in New Orleans. Apart from a period vocal on the first track these turn out to be fairly typical Wingy Mannone performances, a setup he stayed with for most of his recording career. The pianist on the Wingy tracks is Johnny Miller who also appeared on the Bayersdorffers. The next two tracks by Johnny Miller and his New Orleans Frolickers, with Sharkey Bonano on trumpet and Sidney Arodin on clarinet, to an extent set out the path of white New Orleans jazz for the years to come. There then follow four tracks by Monk Hazel’s Bienville Roof Orchestra, these are more arranged than extemporised performances, which suggests that this was more likely a hotel band not given to outright dixieland performances. Two of these four tracks were also issued in Europe. The CD is completed with two alternate takes of the Jones - Collins band, effectively an overflow from the first CD.

                                                                                                                                                                      

  The production of these CDs is essentially a labour of love on the part of the producer Dave Bennett. They are not available from any normal supply source, shops or wholesalers, and can only be acquired from Dave himself at  the address at the head of this review and in his advertisement in this issue. The intention behind this enterprise is to demonstrate the quality of his new system, which is based on the use of a high quality strain gauge cartridge, which has the intention of maintaining the quality of output throughout the length of the track being transferred, and which certainly seems to be the case with these issues. I know that Dave has searched high and low to find the best quality 78s for these productions and, given the variations between the various recordings, ranging from acoustic to electrical and from early studio to travelling recording units, and the wide range of levels and balances encountered, to my mind make this enterprise worthy of support.

CHARLIE CRUMP

 

CD: THE THREE RASCALS - ‘RAGTIME MELODIES’. Windyridge CDR67. Available at £10 + p&p from www.musichallcds.co.uk

Ragtime and syncopated music had been an important part of the British music scene from the mid-1890s, as is amply demonstrated by the many recordings made by American and British artists - black and white - in the twenty years before the ‘official’ arrival of jazz with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in April 1919. These performers ranged from the numerous banjo virtuosi such as Vess Ossman, Charley Rogers and Burt Earle, and African American mandolinist Seth Weeks, to small string bands such as The Versatile Four, the Savoy Quartet and Ciro’s Club Coon Orchestra, not forgetting an impressive array of theatre and military bands of the pedigree of H.M. Coldstream Guards, who could cut loose on the latest American rags and cakewalks with an aplomb and vigour that belied their martial origins and purpose. However, by far the most popular exponents of this new American music, both on stage and on record, were the various vocal groups that arrived on these shores to ride the tidal wave of popularity of ragtime, especially in the 1910-1914 period.

 

  Groups such as the American Ragtime Octette and the Hedges Brothers & Jacobson were joined by American vaudeville star solo performers such as Gene Greene, Willie Solar - and even a young composer and performer called Irving Berlin - all of whom made significant contributions to the spread of American syncopated music in Britain, but one of the best-loved were The Three Rascals. Formed in Philadelphia in 1910, the Three Rascals comprised Charles O’Donnell, Eddie Fields (r.n. Edward Greenfield, who later was to marry Josephine Trix of the Trix Sisters) and Monte Woolf, the latter being replaced in late 1913 by Walt Kaufman. One of the key ingredients of most of these vocal acts was the presence of a two-fisted ragtime pianist - Melville Gideon filled that role with the American Ragtime Octette but soon left to carve his own niche as a highly successful composer, singer and performer; Charley Straight, later a successful bandleader, accompanied Gene Greene; Elven Hedges brought the rough-edged Barbary Coast ragtime piano style to the Hedges Brothers & Jacobson’s act, and Charles ‘Chas’ O’Donnell whipped up a pianistic storm for the Three Rascals. All of the Rascals could and did play piano - in fact part of their stage act was their swapping pianists during a number - but it was O’Donnell’s romping ragtime piano that is to be heard on most of the group’s records.

 

  In the period between late 1912 and May 1914 the Three Rascals record 46 sides, issued on the Jumbo label and a rash of cheap secondary labels. Jumbo was German-owned (as were many pre-WW1 British record labels) but their catalogue contained an impressive array of premier British theatre and stage artists; however the outbreak of war in August 1914 saw the demise of Jumbo - its assets seized by the Government. The vast majority of the Three Rascals recorded output was of popular American ragtime-flavoured popular songs, many of which, such as Some of These Days (sadly not included here), Ragtime Cowboy Joe, Alexander’s Ragtime Band and Get Out and Get Under are still well known today. Other, more obscure titles, such as The Flower Garden Ball, Band, Band, Band, Baboon Dance and They’ve Got Me Doing It Again have much to offer the modern listener, with their joyful spontaneity (ragtime historian Steve Walker has remarked on this, noting that most of their issued titles are from the first take) and lively piano accompaniments.

 

  Windyridge’s owner, Bill Clark has, by and large, managed to coax an acceptable sound out of these now-uncommon records, but I wish that he’d not over-processed them - I hear ‘digital artifacts’ all over them, and some of the tracks with rough starts have been faded in. That being said, I know of no other reissue of these fine recordings - he has also managed to squeeze 29 tracks onto this CD.

 

  The Three Rascals’ recordings are important, in that they capture a moment in time shared between Britain and the USA; an age of innocence shortly to be destroyed by war. And in  that there is a delicious irony - the American vaudeville stage was brim-full of similar talented ragtime-flavoured vocal acts, but the ultra-conservative American record companies chose to disregard them, preferring their tried and tested  studio-based ensembles featuring the likes of Billy Murray, Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan, some of whom had been plying this distorted parody since the mid-1890s, and were by then well past their sell by date. Here you can hear the real thing, raw, exciting and fun, as performed nightly in theatres and music halls on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

  Recommended.

MARK BERRESFORD


  

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