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)




Blogger HP said...

I just wanted to say, I've been listening to this for the past several days, and thoroughly enjoying it. Not at all what I would've expected from Kostelanetz (I'm used to his '50s/'60s sound).

I'd been listening to hot bands from the era for years before I started checking out the sweet bands. My first reaction is that they sound like Merrie Melodies, but I realize that's actually backwards -- Stalling was imitating Whiteman et al.

Chant of the Weed is especially fun when you realize that the original is a barely disguised viper tune. But then the 101 Strings probably covered Strawberry Fields in their day.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Lee Hartsfeld said...

I sort of suspected it was marijuana-related. But, of course, it also fits into the longing-for-Africa tradition of the 1920s and 1930s. Yes, so many interesting things were happening outside of "hot" dance and jazz, as much as we've been conditioned to believe otherwise. And the connection between MOR dance and easy-listening is pretty fun--both were offshoots of light concert music. That's my theory, anyway! My best guess.

I have at least one easy-listening version of "Fields," though I can't remember who did it. Percy Faith, possibly.

Yes, the "Weed" side is (no pun intended) addictive!


3:33 PM  
Anonymous said...

iikxpkhtHi Lee
You mention 1936 for the Weed. According to the Victor Master Book it was recorded January 4th 1935. The matrix numbers fit this date. I have the 78 - my Mum bought it around 1950 & I liked it from day one. I still prefer it to other versions by Redman & Harlan Lattimore in 1931/2. Thanks for helping keep music alive.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Lee Hartsfeld said...

Thanks for the information! I was going from a brief discography in a popular music encyclopedia.

Yes, it's the best version I've ever heard, too. I wonder who the arranger was? I suspect someone like Gordon Jenkins.


7:33 PM  

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