Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Buddy Tate, The Rock and Rollers Orchestra (Halo 50322)
Look at that cover--I had to grab this one. This was an inexpensive eBay acquisition--I'm still Covid-avoiding the thrifts. Too many central Ohioans think the virus is a joke, and I don't feel comfortable around folks who don't wear masks. Like covering your mouth and nose for the common good is some kind of epic hardship. But, anyway, this is an Eli Oberstein junk-label gem--from the good ol' Record Corporation of America, or, the fake RCA. I think a lawsuit happened over "RCA" vs. RCA at some point, but don't quote me. The copyright year on the back cover is 1957, but Discogs says 1958 for the release, so, what the heck. 1958 it is. The sole Tate discography I found on line tells me that the A-side tracks were recorded by Buddy Tate in 1955, and for the Halo label! The "for the Halo label" part is the surprise, since I didn't know anyone actually recorded specifically for the fake-RCA junk labels--I would've though these tracks came from some other source. That's what I get for thinking. And, meanwhile, I've just found a second Tate discography, though it's not as detailed as the one I linked to.
I like the Tate sides--especially the uptempo Skip It--though the two Christmas titles don't demand replays (they're kind of draggy). And Snowy White Christmas is a certain famous Christmas standard by an American songwriter born in Siberia. (Hint: Remove "Snowy" from the title.) Now, if Tate indeed recorded his tracks for this label, why didn't he do two sides' worth? Dunno.
The flip side features the Rock and Rollers Orchestra, whom nobody seems to have identified. And it doesn't sound like the same guys throughout--I hear two, maybe three, outfits. And it's rock and roll, all right, but not the type that hit the pop charts in the 1950s--it's the 1940s-style stuff that emerged from swing music, and I suspect that these tracks date from that decade. No way to be sure, of course. The sound quality goes south with these numbers, the last two sounding especially bad. Whether the problem happened in the remastering, or if the things were just badly recorded... dunno. But side 2 really rocks. My attempts to fix the sound backfired, so I kept the dynamic balance as is. You'll hear thumping bass and subdued highs, at least compared to the lighter, superior sound on the Tate numbers.
And I do think the source for r&r was big band jazz, or swing. We've been taught for decades that r&r came together from umpteen sources--the prevailing notion, far as I know, is that parallel strands/styles, each with its own history, merged into r&r at some point (directed by what magical force, I don't know). How else to explain the stylistic diversity in early r&r? Well, I have a couple of far simpler explanations--1) popular forms tend to diversify stylistically as they borrow from other forms, and 2) when you have musicians from varied backgrounds involved in getting a new form off the ground, as was the case with r&r, you can expect a variety of approaches. Popular music evolves at a rapid pace, and this doesn't leave much room for highly complicated processes to occur. Popular entertainment is sink-or-swim by nature--something finds an audience, or it perishes. The complicated creation theories of r&r journalism sound fine on paper, but simple is better when it comes to theories, because simple theories are testable (i.e., falsifiable). 800-page theories aren't, because they're too prone to ad hoc revising of propositions, and because they have the same probability of being correct as any other 800-page theory. A theory that can't be tested is as useful (or useless) as any other. It's good to remember that theories explain things--they don't describe them. My contention that r&r came from swing is not a simplification of history. Rather, it's an acknowledgement that change and mutation are the essence of evolution. Those two nouns function as synonyms for it, in fact. Rather than buying the claim that forty forms were placed in a big, magic mixing bowl, with the result being early r&r, maybe we should look for the form which mutated into r&r. The most obvious suspect is swing.
DOWNLOAD: Buddy Tate, Rock and Rollers Orchesstra
Buddy Tate, His Tenor Sax and Orch.
Snowy White Christmas (White Christmas)
Rock and Rollers Orchestra
Let's Rock and Roll
Romp and Stomp
Long N' Lean
The Screwdriver No. 1
(Halo 50332; released 1958--Tate sessions, 1955)