Friday, July 29, 2005

"Twelfth Street Rag" and "Sheik of Araby," 1948-style

For the moment, is go! I've discovered that, if I migrate at the rate of one file per upload, all is well. Let's hope it remains so. Slow is better than grounded, any day.

Euday L. Bowman's 1914 Twelfth Street Rag was memorably recorded by Ted Lewis in 1923 Frankie Carle in 1940, and Pee Wee Hunt in 1948. Hunt's version, a huge hit, was rendered in a fake-Twenties style very familiar to late-1940s listeners, thanks in part to musical pranksters like Spike Jones and the Hoosier Hot Shots. When retro becomes retro, drastic measures are called for. And drastic meter changes. Which might explain Morton Gould's own 1948 rendition of the rag, which veers between wild and wilder in its approach. Twelfth Street Rag, Morton Gould and His Orchestra, 1948 (from the Columbia EP set Do You Remember?)

From the same set, we have Morton Gould's comparatively subdued but still lavish treatment of the 1921 hit, The Sheik of Araby. The arrangement features some highly Exotica moments that settle into quieter, subtler grooves. Not for the thrill-seeking listener, therefore, but it's a fine, mellow chart from a master orchestrator to whom the most elegant kind of easy came easily. The Sheik of Araby, Morton Gould and His Orchestra, 1948 (from same EP set as above). No Club-Royal-style slide whistle in this arrangement!

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Endless problems with storage may mean closing of blog

The last thing I want to do is shut down Vintage Lounge, but my storage service,, has been nothing but problems from the time I signed onto it. The latest situation has been a 24-long affair (and counting)--six attempts to upload two mp3 files have all ended in failure. advised me to delete all of my Cookies. I did, and to no avail. Now I'm a stranger at my regular Internet stops. Wonderful.

I'm so tired of dealing with these problems that I'm on the verge of calling it quits. However, I don't want to make such a decision in haste--and especially not when I'm upset. Starting over with a new storage service will mean losing all of the mp3 posts to date, and how do I know I won't have the same problems elsewhere? It would be sad to have my blog finished off by storage issues, but a music blog without music isn't a music blog.

I'll give this some time and thought. It's "Time-Out" time. My sincere apologies if anyone is having problems with downloading files. Hopefully, it's only an uploading issue. (I hate the word "issue," but it's become part of the language.)

Lee, hoping he can remain

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The roots of easy, Part 2

Premiering in 1923, The Eveready Hour, according to a number of websites, was the first sponsored radio program. The ultra-light light music presented on the show was easy-listening in the making, if these two studio recordings by the Eveready Hour Group (directed by Nat Shilkret) are any indication.

1927 wasn't a good year for Victor label surfaces, unless by "good" one means "filled with annoying hiss." But it's the music that matters--and this is interesting stuff, considering the fact that we associate such sounds with a much later period. Down South (American Sketch), written in 1901 by British composer William H. Myddleton, is vintage mood music, and the choral rendition of Dvorak's Goin' Home, even moreso. Imagine that the surface hiss is 1927 static. (Too bad it's not; this disc would be worth a few bucks as a 1920s aircheck....) Down South (American Sketch) (William H. Myddleton), Eveready Hour Group, dir. by Nat Shilkret (1927). Goin' Home (Dvorak, Fisher), Eveready Hour Group, dir. by Nat Shilkret (1927).

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

The roots of Ferrante and Teicher, part 2

Well, I promised to find some more roots of Ferrante and Teicher, i.e. pre-1952 records by virtuoso, Classically-trained duo-pianists playing "pop" titles. A search at my favorite Columbus used record store, Colleen's Collectibles, turned up nothing, but only because I didn't know who I was looking for. (Colleen, having guided me to the piano section: "Who are you looking for?" Me: "I'm not sure.") Turns out I should have been seeking Whittemore and Lowe, as well as Morley and Gearhart, two piano-playing teams who helped pave the way for Art and Lou, even if they didn't stick foreign objects behind the strings or mess with the hammers.

These folks I will be looking for in the thrift bins. Or at Colleen's, when next I visit. This isn't exactly stuff that flies off the shelves, unless the poltergeists get bored.

There were, of course, more purely pop pianists who zipped up and down the keyboard in a quest to impress people. Some were very good--Carmen Cavallaro, for example. Others were not, such as Eddy Duchin. And Jan August, whom we are about to hear in an embarrassing rendition of Zez Confrey's Dizzy Fingers. Of all the Confrey pieces for an arpeggio-faker not to take on, Dizzy Fingers is probably the one. Whose idea was this?

But try to ignore August's flub-athon and listen, instead, to the multiple-echo effect, a gimmick which makes the track sound very much like early, prepared-piano Ferrante and Teicher: Dizzy Fingers, Jan August, 1951.

Missed notes aside, this is very "futuristic"-sounding lounge for 1951. Very F&T.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Royale pain: great music, lousy fidelity

When I found a near-mint copy of Percy Faith on Royale (in EP form), I felt very lucky--until I listened to the thing. Much high-frequency "scritch" in the louder passages, and no way to eliminate it completely without muffling the sound. I did manage to make decent files of the first two tracks, but the remaining pair were hopeless. So, I'm only able to present half of Royale EP 119, though half a vintage-lounge masterpiece is better than none: Begin the Beguine, 1947. Orig. released on Majestic. Dancing in the Dark, 1947. Originally released on Majestic.

I managed to keep the "scritch" at a minimum, and the results are more than bearable, sonically. These superb arrangements are positively Satanic by the standards of Rock, the religion of which forbids strings and flutes in its churches. Faith works wonders with both, wondrously working them into the symphonic mix--scritch or no scritch.

(Please save, rather than open, files for best results. Thanks!)


Friday, July 08, 2005

Andre Kostelanetz Presents: Chant of the Weed

From 1936, Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra with a terrific version of Don Redman's Chant of the Weed. This is symphonic dance band music in the style of Paul Whiteman, only lacking that leader's unfailing smoothness. The arrangement works, anyway, thanks to cartoon-style choral spookiness and loud, aggressive brass whose remarkable precision makes up for whatever it lacks in swing feel. The song's haunted-house chord--a dominant-seventh with a flattened fifth--pretty much calls out for clunky playing, anyway. (Or creates it!) Chant of the Weed, Andre Kostelanetz Presents, 1936. (From 12" 78)

And, the flip side--an energetic, get-out-of-your-seat vintage-lounge medley called Rumba Fantasy. Three years later, Kosty would be recording with more strings and (much) more echo. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any echo at all on these two numbers. Maybe RCA's budget, at the time, didn't allow for any.... Rumba Fantasy, Andre Kostelanetz Presents, 1936. (From 12" 78)



Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Elevator to the Moon

Masterful pop-Impressionism from (and by) Mantovani--this is Monty's own Poem to the Moon, from 1948. The orchestration reminds us of Claude Debussy, whereas the modal minimalism reminds us of Erik Satie. ("Us" meaning me, myself, and I.)

Monty's Poem starts in Mixolydian mode with a suspended cadence, i.e. a minor seventh chord on V, with the tonic sounding on the bottom. Eventually, the harmony descends in steps not consistent with Mixolydian mode, just to throw our ears for a gentle loop. Monty does a great deal with very little, all the while creating a number of mood swings--most notably, the dramatic, minor-mode re-re-restatement of the main theme. Here's your chance to crank up Mantovani, though you'll have to wait for the moment.... (Be sure to yell, "MONTY!!!!! WOOOO!!") Poem to the Moon (Mantovani), Mantovani and His Concert Orch., 1948. (From 12" London 78)

Please save, rather than open, file for best results. Thanks!


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Independence Day with F&T and the Decca Band

From the album Hi-Fireworks , no less, comes our first Fourth of July selection: Susanna's Last Stand, recorded in 1953 by duo-pianists Ferrante and Teicher. Susanna's Last Stand, Ferrante and Teicher, 1953.

From 1949, here's the Decca Orchestra belting out Henry J. Sayers' 1891 classic, Ta-ra-ra-Boom-der-e, which we used to sing as Ta-ra-ra-Boomsee-ay (They Took My Pants Away). This comes from the 10" LP Concert in the Park, on Decca DL 5079. Ta-ra-ra-Boom-der-e, Decca Orchestra, 1949.

And here's Meredith Willson and His Concert Orchestra, performing the heck out of Ferde Grofe's March for Americans. Ripped from a great-sounding 1941 Decca 78 of the 12" variety. A repeat offering, but why not? This is too good to offer only once. March for Americans (Grofe), Meredith Willson and His Concert Orch., 1941.

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

From the composer of "The Hot Canary"--"Beverly Hill Billy"

My copy of Beverly Hill Billy showed up by itself in a thrift store--no sign of the other three 45s, or the box. It originally belonged to a set called Nero Fiddles! featuring Paul Nero and His Entourage. Nero (1917-1958), best-known for his hit composition The Hot Canary, seems to be highly regarded in jazz-violin circles. Beverly Hill Billy is a Nero original, too: Paul Nero and His Entourage (1950). From Capitol 45 RPM EP.

It sounds to my ears as if Nero is quoting several "old-time" tunes, especially during the mellow middle section. Seeing Nellie Home, maybe. Barbara Allen, on the celeste (?). But I'm not familiar enough with these tunes to know for sure. Dig the obligatory boogie section at the end, probably intended for humor. Of course, while Nero fiddled, Rag Mop was burning up the charts. Mop was the kind of simple and unadorned twelve-bar blues that jazz musicians had a hard time taking seriously. They hadn't heard nothin' yet!

For those not familiar with The Hot Canary (such as I wasn't until a few months ago), here is Florian Zabach, from 1951: The Hot Canary (Paul Nero), Florian Zabach, 1951. From Decca 45 RPM EP.

Hope you enjoyed this lively jazz-lounge. Or is it lounge-jazz? Novelty lounge-jazz, maybe. Novelty violin jazz-lounge. Novelty violin-led small-group jazz pre-hi-fi.... Oh, never mind.