Monday, July 20, 2015

Paul Whiteman and His Orch., 1926-1928

Bet you can't tell that I used a desk lamp to light this 78 sleeve.  (There's only the blatant right-hand glare to give it away.)  Song of India doesn't appear in the playlist--it just happened to be the Whiteman disc at hand when I took this shot.  It was an instance of grabbing the nearest Paul Whiteman 78.  Just another day in the Media Room.

Now that we've cleared all of that up, below are links to eleven sides by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, all ripped by moi, that date from 1926 to 1928.  And all of which feature arrangements by Ferde Grofe.  Grofe is not liked by the jazz critics who write about Paul Whiteman, and ask me if I care.  ("Do you care?")  No, I do not.  To those critics: Pfffffthhht!  Grofe was a brilliant arranger.  The proof is in the 78s.


Collette, 1927.
Broadway, 1927.
Manhattan Mary, 1927.
When I'm in Your Arms, 1926.
I Always Knew, 1926.
Precious, 1926.
Moonlight on the Ganges, 1926.
Shanghai Dream Man, 1927.
The Japanese Sandman, 1928.
Lonely Eyes, 1926.
Ma Belle, 1928.



Anonymous said...

Hi Lee
A most amazing desk lamp lighted picture of your 78rpm and sleeve
When music mattered, even nice artwork went into sleeves to compliment
the music, Great Selections as always, Thanks !
You do fine job of keeping music we possibly couldn't hear anyplace else !
Byron in Los Angeles, Yes, That Byron from your HalLEEween past.
Take Care of You, the Cats and Bev ps. do you have an actual pic of your cat listening to his master's voice Victrola ?
'Song of India' is one of my faves.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Hi, Byron!

Thanks for the well wishes. No, I don't have any pics of our cats listening to a Victrola, but there's always photoshopping! I might try that.

Nice to hear from you, and hope you're doing great!

trucha3 said...

Just revisiting after a long absence. I was listening to the Beau Hunk's recording of Grofe and found an ancient link in my notes to your wonderful blog. I'm mystified that Grofe is not liked by the jazz critics who write about Paul Whiteman. How can there be any question of his brilliance?

Lee Hartsfeld said...

It's mostly run-off from the hostility jazz writers have been feeling (for nearly 100 years now!) toward Paul Whiteman, who of course didn't play what they consider "real" jazz (never mind that, from the start, jazz was a highly-planned music). Grofe was Whiteman's chief arranger, so naturally he shares bad-guy status. Attitudes toward/against Whiteman are softening a bit, but he's still the great enemy of jazz to many reviewers--the type who turn who to past critics for their views.

More specifically, Grofe catches hell for (c. 1928-1929) not having given famed cornetist Bix Beiderbecke adequate solo space (I think that's the beef) and for supposedly siding with the Whiteman "old guard" during the period that Bill Challis, Tom Satterfield and other arrangers were moving the orchestra in a jazzier direction. (That the Whiteman band was already doing some highly jazzy stuff is a fact lost in the Bix-propaganda branch of jazz history. God forbid we so much as consider the possible Whiteman/Grofe influence on, say, Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, which--just between you and me--was considerable.)

Allegedly, Grofe was opposed to the Bix/Challis change in direction, but I've never read anything that confirms this. In fact, Bill Challis was one of Grofe's biggest fans, and I'll Bix looked up to him, too--at least one writer has pointed out that Bix's allegedly Challis-inspired Piano works (In a Mist, etc.) sound far more like Grofe than Challis (I agree 100 percent). So I have a hard time imagining lots of friction between Challis/Bix and Grofe. Not any personal friction, at least. Critics conveniently overlook the fact that Challis, Satterfield, and Roy Bargy wrote their share of highly Grofe-influenced "concert" scores for the band--the brutally panned "Sweet Sue," for ex., was Challis, not Grofe.

It's quite complicated, really. Personally, I think we're looking at the age-old narrative of the great jazz soloist vs. the forces of commercialism and conformity (pop vs. authentic), and never mind that Bix loved being in the Whiteman orchestra. Grofe committed two huge crimes against jazz history: 1) providing "written-down" jazz for the most popular dance orch. of the 1920s, and 2) not writing arrangements to showcase the cornet of Bix Beiderbecke, as Matty Malneck, Challis, and Satterfield did. He makes a convenient scapegoat, even if doing so involves highly selective treatment of the Whiteman canon.

On the other hand, there are jazz scholars who admire him--Max Harrison and Gunther Schuller, for ex., so his press is not all negative. And I think there is very, very slowly emerging an awareness among jazz historians of the extreme importance of arranged jazz and of what an important figure Grofe happens to be in this regard. (He may be the key early figure in that area, really, given that he was writing jazz arrangements in the 1910s). He's a big part of the music's evolution, regardless of his attitude toward the "Bixian" direction taken by Whiteman in the late '20s.

High-school-dropout Grofe made his living playing piano in whorehouses while in his teens, so the jazz-history shtick of Grofe not being sufficiently authentic is kind of hilarious. He had a harder way to go than many of jazz music's early pioneers, black or white.

It's sad that such an extraordinary talent still has to apologize for itself with pop and jazz critics. Gives you an idea why I have pretty low regard for both of those areas. Sorry for my essay of an answer! This is one of my big areas. Thanks for the nice words.