Saturday, July 20, 2019
78 City: Prince's Band, Waring's Pennsylvanians, Jean Moeremans, more!
So, I have a new, more powerful PC, but I have to do my CD burns at a slower speed, or else there's trouble. I guess logic plays no part in any of this....
Sorry--just typing out loud. Today's post (it'll be tomorrow by the time I'm done) consists of no fewer than 20 shellac sides, starting with the 1915 Columbia 12" Medley of Indian Songs by Prince's Band. These, of course, are not authentic Indian songs but rather pop songs on Indian themes--Red Wing, Silver Heels, Hiawatha, etc.
We heard a charming 1905 version of Silver Heels in the last 78 rpm post, so if that melody sounds familiar, that may be the reason. And we have nine dance sides from the 1920s, plus an almost-1920s dance side--the 1919 In Your Arms by Ben Selvins' Orchestra, a medley which "introduces" the number I Know Why. In the early dance band days, arrangers would often include the chorus of a second song to break up the monotony--hence, "introducing..."
Contrary to what some people insist, evolution is a linear process--linear in the sense of an unbroken line (like a family tree--branching out in all directions but with no gaps). But of course evolution never happens in a straight line, and so any generalization I make about the evolution of dance band arranging is going to be wrong. For instance, generally speaking, the earliest (1910s) dance band charts repeated the chorus (aka refrain) of a pop song without any variation in treatment. Then came Ferde Grofe and his anything but monotonous approach--an approach that bordered on theme and variation--which included trading off the verse and chorus of a song instead of importing the strain of another tune. And highlighting and/or contrasting sections of the orchestra, a la big band. But, of course, that's an overgeneralization that borders on vast. Anyway...
Today's 1920s sides all have that classic Twenties flavor--arrangers striving for variety in their charts, trying for new sounds. Ironically, all that striving for variety is what makes these sides sound so dated today. But dated in a fun way. At best, in a way that has the listener marveling at the arranger's ingenuity.
Then we have 1907's I'd Rather Two-Step Than Waltz, Bill, which, fittingly, is a two-step. And two paragraphs back, I talked about "the earliest (1910s) dance band charts," so what's up with that? This disc is certainly dance music--two-step is a dance, of course. But it's not dance band music in the modern sense. It's too much like straight ragtime, and the orchestra's stiff handling of the syncopated rhythms doesn't help. Dance and dance band (or dance orchestra) music has always existed, of course. Probably as long as music itself.
Not so the saxophone--it's from the early 19th century. You just know an instrument as complicated as the saxophone couldn't go back to, say, the year 900. Anyway, the 1904 Carnival of Venice features stunningly virtuosic noodling from Jean Moeremans. I read an on line piece which refers to Moeremans' tone as flat, and I suppose it is, especially when compared to the goofy sounds extracted from the instrument in the 1920s, when saxophones went from pop novelty to pop staple. But what stands out as hopelessly out of fashion to my ears are the highly impressive but absurdly over the top arpeggios, plus the fact that the side is the same musical section over and over. It's like we're eavesdropping on an 1879 parlor music performance, only it's 1904 and the performer is world-class.
To the 78s....
DOWNLOAD: Indian Songs and more!
Medley of Indian Songs--Prince's Band (Columbia A5716; 1915)
Lovin' Sam (The Sheik of Alabam')--Dixie Daisies (Cameo 291; 1922)
What More Do You Want? (Isham Jones)--Same
In Your Arms (Medley)--(Ben) Selvin's Novelty Orch. (Victor 18650; 1919)
Carnival of Venice--Jean Moeremans, Saxophone Solo (Victor 16244; 1904)
Carolina in the Monring (Walter Donaldson)--(Hazy) Natzy's Biltmore Orch., Dir. Jack Green (Okeh 4713; 1922)
Are You Playing Fair?--Zez Confrey's Orch., with ZC at the piano (Victor 18921; 1922)
Red Hot Chicago--Waring's Pennsylvanians, v: Fred Waring (Victor 22325; 1930)
Wasn't It Beautiful While It Lasted?--Same, w. The Three Girl Friends and Stewart Churchill
Linger Awhile--Bennie Krueger's Orchestra (Brunswick 2526; 1923)
I'm Sittin' Pretty in a Pretty Little City--Gene Rodemich's Orch.--Same
I'd Rather Two-Step Than Waltz, Bill (Medley Two-Step)--(Zonophone) Concert Band (Oxford 837; 1905)
Toot, Toot, Tootsie! (Goo'Bye)--Frank Westphal and His Rainbo Orch. (Columbia A3706; 1922)
Why Should I Cry Over You--Knickerbocker Orch., Dir. Eddie Elkins--Same
There's a Lump of Sugar Down in Dixie (Medley-One-step)--Marimbaphone Band (Red, White and Blue Marimba Band) (Columbia A2550; 1918)
At the Cottonpickers' Ball--Same
Mandy Make up Your Mind--Mike Speciale and His Carlton Terrace Orch. (Perfect 14336; 1924)
Home Again Blues (Berlin-Akst)--Gene Rodemich's Orch. (Brunswick 2060; 1921)
I Can't Make Her Happy--Waring's Pennsylvanians, v: Clare Hanlon (Victor 21810; 1928)
The Song I Love--Same, v: Fred Waring