Saturday, February 18, 2017

Jazz Age gems, 1926-1929 (plus "Deep Purple," 1934)

To go with Ferde Grofe's jazzy concert piece, Metropolis (previous post), here are fourteen Jazz Age gems.  Well, to be fair, Peter DeRose's Deep Purple, while an example of "symphonic jazz," falls outside of the Jazz Age window, but it nevertheless has much in common with the 1928 Metropolis, though I imagine most people would hear Gershwin (which is not unreasonable).

The other thirteen tracks are jazzy dance music from the latter 1920s, (Thirteen tracks?  Gulp....)  And, believe it or not, one of the jazziest is Guy Lombardo's (!) 1928 Waitin' for Katy.  The flip, not included here, sounds much more like the "real" Guy.  Corny, in other words.  (I love Guy.)

And there's the superb novelty side, Ragamuffin, by Louis Katzman's Anglo-Persians, one of the most charming numbers of its type, and there's Jean Goldkette's 1927 I'd Rather Be the Girl in Your Arms, sung by (wait a minute)... Frank Bessinger?  Whoa.  What's up with that?  Actually, male vocalists singing songs with female lyrics (so to speak) wasn't unknown in the Jazz Age--I have a male vocal refrain on a recording of The Man I Love (Troubadours, maybe?), for instance.  Back then, lyrics were lyrics, I guess.  The tradition didn't last, of course.  Good thing--imagine Rosemary Clooney singing 16 Tons.

Jean Goldkette's famous Sunday (famous because Bix Beiderbecke is on it), features the Keller Sisters and Lynch, and I love "the Keller Sisters and Lynch."  The sound of it, I mean.  Their vocal sound is pretty cool, too.  And Red Nichols--ahh, yes. My introduction to the 1920s.  I grew up listening to my dad's Brunswick 78 set of Red Nichols on the Garrard hi-fi, and my dad instisted Red wasn't real jazz (too studio-perfect?).  Well, I thought he was, and I still do.  Awesome stuff.  He is too often regarded as a Bix Beiderbecke sound-alike, but when I listen to Red, I hear Red.

The wonderful Deep Purple, more famous as a song than a concert piece, was arranged by... dunno.  I'm guessing Ferde Grofe or Roy Bargy.  Grofe had left Whiteman by 1934, but he was still writing arrangements, so it could be him.  It's certainly in his style.

Click here to experience: Jazz Age Gems


I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover--Sam Lanin's Dance O., v: Billy Jones, 1927
Waitin' for Katy--Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, w. Vocal Trio, 1928
Doin' the Raccoon--The Knickerbockers (Ben Selvin), 1928
Ragamuffin (Greer)--Anglo-Persians, Dir. Louis Katzman, 1929
I'd Rather Be the Girl in Your Arms--Jean Goldkette Orch., v: Frank Bessinger, 1927
Sugar Babe, I'm Leavin'!--Blue Steele and His Orch., w. vocal chorus, 1927
Jericho--Arthur Ross and His Westerners, v: Tom Frawley, 1929
Girl of My Dreams, I Love You--Blue Steele and His Orch., w. vocal chorus, 1927
Sweet Dreams--Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orch., v: The Four Rajahs, 1928
Sunday--Jean Goldkette Orch., v: Keller Sisters and Lynch, 1926
Feelin' No Pain--Red Nichols and His Five Pennies, 1927
Ida!  Sweet as Apple Cider--Same
I'm on the Crest of a Wave--George Olsen and His Music, v: Bob Borger, 1928
Deep Purple (Peter De Rose)--Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orch., 1934


Friday, February 17, 2017

Metropolis (A Blue Fantasie; Ferde Grofe)--Paul Whiteman Orch., 1928

Click here to hear: Metropolis (A Blue Fantasie; Grofe)--Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orch., 1928.

Ripped by me from my two 12" 78 rpm copies, which are 1930s reissues but which sound fine, though likely a bit duller in fidelity than the original pressings.  I previously featured these in 2010, and in decent sound, but I think the present rips sound way more vivid, with deeper bass and sharper highs.  (Deeper bass and sharper highs?  I should be writing TV ads.)

Anyway, Metropolis is sort of famous as an allegedly botched attempt at concert jazz, despite the fact that 1) it works just fine in that regard, if you ask me, and 2) until 1989 (with Willem Breuker Kollektief's amazing version) the 1928 Whiteman disc was its sole recording.  What has kept Metropolis a topic of jazz and Classical discussion is, as always, Grofe's connection to Gershwin as the orchestrator of Rhapsody in Blue--that, plus his rather unfair reputation as the guy who did the crappy commercial charts for Paul Whiteman while Bill Challis and others were writing progressive stuff.  (Never mind that Challis was a big fan of Ferde.)  Whiteman has caught hell from jazz critics for many decades now--he was fake jazz, didn't swing, yada yada--and Grofe, being his chief arranger, is co-condemned.  Being one of popular music's most gifted innovators doesn't always pay off, at least critically.

Grofe wasn't Gerswhin; he wasn't Challis; he wrote charts for Whiteman; and he hit the Classical big-time with his Grand Canyon Suite, an alleged piece of fluff (derivative fluff, at that).  Not my verdict, but pretty much the standard one until the arrival of...

...the digital age, with Grofe getting some long-overdue nice press, and with an astonishing number of his pieces having seen the light of CD (even his Niagara Falls and Hollywood suites!).  And we have friend-of-MY(P)WAE Kevin Tam resurrecting such Grofe gems as San Francisco Suite and Selections in a Wine Cellar.  I still can't believe all of this is actually happening.

At last, a Grofe discography that extends beyond the Grand Canyon and Mississippi suites.  All it took was the invention of CDs.  Plus, newly-available Grofe scores!


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Exotic Music--Andre Kostelanetz (1946)

Gorgeous mood music, by the master of same, Russian-born Andre Kostelanetz.  Only four selections in this 12" 78rpm album, but I do not complain, especially when the music is so fine and the outside art so awesome.  (Wore my wrist out cloning out the worn spots on the black background.)

The chief problem with two-disc 78 albums is their increased tendency to crack when mailed, since there are only two records.  Dealers should know to take shellac discs out of an album (left inside, they're free to move around and crack), but "should," plus $1.29, will get you a cup of coffee at McDonald's.  And so I have at least one cracked copy of Exotic Music, but I have another--from where, I don't remember--whose discs are not only whole but, until I put them on my turntable, unplayed.  These are the ones I ripped.  I track heavy, but nothing like the tonearms of old.

The standout track, by far, is the roots-of-exotica selection Lotus Land, composed by Cyril Scott in 1905, and by far his best-known work.  The liner notes are worth quoting:

"Lotus Land finds its story in the Odyssey of Homer.  During the ten years of tribulation which he spent returning from the siege of Troy, Odysseus braved and overcame many perils, some fierce and aggressive, others latent and passive, but just as deadly.  One of these periods awaited him in the land of the Lotus-eaters.  Whoever stopped here and ate of the lotus flower would at once forget all thoughts of home and duty and remain on to live in dreamy indolence.  This peril, successfully defied by Odysseus, is pictured with wonderful realism in this impressionistic music.  The languid, dulled ease, the meaninglessness of time, the fatal beauty of the flower, are all richly embroidered in this tonal tapestry."

Damn--they don't write notes like that anymore.  And it's hard to imagine music that more perfectly describes its subject.  The other three selections, especially Flamingo, also rock.

Mood music brilliance from 1946.

Click here to hear: Exotic Music, 1946

Flamingo (Grouya)
Poinciana (Song of the Tree; Nat Simon)
Song of India (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Lotus Land (Cyril Scott)

Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch.
(Columbia MX-264, 1946)


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Elgar, with more treble

"And this is your standard boogie-woogie left hand in octaves...."

I opened up the high end on the 1926 Chicago Symphony recording of Pomp and Circumstance, and I think that was the thing to do:

Pomp and Circumstance

I don't recall labeling the file "pomp and c.," but I must have, because that's how it displays.  I was probably dozing off at the PC.


1926--a good year for popular classics

I'm using "popular classics" in the traditional sense--i.e., concert "Pops," except not Michael Jackson.  I just VinylStudio-restored two 1926 concert "Pops," and you'll have to put up with a little distortion during the loud part on the second--the wider grooves fell victim to a bad needle at some point in the disc's history.

Now, this is something I should be, but am not, clear about--namely, why was it mostly the wider grooves that got damaged by worn 78 needles?  Because the needle rests more deeply in the groove?  Or, maybe the culprit wasn't needle wear but tonearm mis-tracking.  You know, that could explain it.  If the needle isn't riding properly in the groove, then its greatest variations would happen in the wider areas.  Sections of the groove wall would take serious hits from the needle as it bounced around, whereas in the quieter, thinner grooves, the needle would be likely to mostly stay the course.

Remember that record damage is more often an issue of bad tonearm tracking/alignment than wear.  Or so I've been assured by people who know more than I do.

It's amazing what engineers could accomplish in 1926.   Hear the proof:

Pomp and Circumstance--Chicago Symph. Orch. and Grand Organ, Dir. Frederick Stock, 1926
William Tell--Overture (The Storm)--Arthur Pryor's Band, 1926.

(Above) My copy, when it was an eBay orphan....