Monday, August 25, 2014

Kryl and Haines from 1903

I found myself listening to a bunch of records from the first five years of the 20th century today, and decided to share one. The public's taste at this time, as least as the record companies read it, leaned toward novelty songs, marches, and what the British still call "light music." It was only with the onset of Caruso's recording career that music of any profundity began to be recorded.

But there is a certain charm in many of those early-20th-century records. I've chosen one because it's a typical brass showpiece record of the time, and because it's in remarkably excellent condition. Most of my records from this period are pretty worn, but I would guess that my copy of Oxford 1189 had never seldom played before I took it home from an antique store in Woodstock, Georgia.

Oxford was the second label used by the Sears, Roebuck & Co. chain of department stores. Their first label was Harvard; their most well-known and longest-running label was Silvertone. But between those two labels, from 1907 to 1915, they used the name Oxford on their records. The first Oxfords were pressed for Sears by Victor, using material from Victor's Zonophone subsidiary, but they soon turned to Columbia to provide their records. Oxfords were single-sided, and featured a confusingly-worded legal notice on their reverse sides; many labels used a similar notice at the time.

Oxford 1189 was pressed around 1908 from a master made for Columbia in early 1903: "Birds of the Forest." There is no composer credit on the label, but a little research reveals that this "Polka de Concert" is Sebastian Mayr's opus 75, and that it was a brand-new composition at the time of this recording. There is no artist credit, either, but the performers are the flamboyant Czech cornet virtuoso Bohumir Kryl and his frequent musical partner Leroy Haines on trombone. Kryl was a businessman and art collector in addition to being a soloist and bandleader; he was a well-known and much-recorded figure in the first few decades of the 20th century.

Enjoy this very nice recording of "Birds of the Forest" by Kryl and Haines.

Birds of the Forest

Friday, August 1, 2014

Unreissued American Music, part 1

Composer, violinist, percussionist, writer, and jazz historian Bill Russell started the American Music label in 1944 to issue the recordings he made of the traditional jazz musicians of New Orleans.  Between that year and 1953, Russell issued 40 78s (including seven 12-inchers) and 13 10" LPs of the music he recorded.  After that, the label was more or less dormant for years, although Russell would occasionally license some of the material for issue in Japan or Europe.

Eventually, the American Music catalog was bought by the Jazzology group, and Russell lived to oversee the first few AM CD reissues.  By now the CD series has expanded to the extent that almost all of Russell's American Music recordings are available on CD, including many alternate takes and previously unissued items.  But for a variety of reasons, there are a few of the original 78s that were never reissued on LP or CD.  I'll present them all here, starting with one side of AM 535, "Eh, La-Bas!" by the Original Creole Stompers.

The Stompers consisted of Herb Morand on trumpet, Louis Nelson on trombone, the searing clarinet of Albert Burbank, veteran guitarist Johnny St. Cyr, Austin Young on bass, and Albert Jiles on drums.  They were recorded by Russell at Burbank's home on Lapeyrouse Street in New Orleans on the evening of July 13, 1949.  Russell issued two 78s from the session; eventually almost the entire session was issued on CD, including four tunes from a rehearsal session the night before.  Barry Martyn, who produced the CD, opted to use the rehearsal take of "Eh, La-Bas!" instead of the originally issued take.  That rehearsal take has its own charm - it's slower, more relaxed, and two minutes longer than the 78 take.  But Burbank's clarinet is seemingly on fire on the originally-issued take, and it's a shame to let this fine music languish unheard.  So here's one side of American Music 535, featuring the clarinet and Creole vocal of Albert Burbank.

Eh, La Bas!