Paul Whiteman

An Experiment in Modern Music

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On February 12, 1924, Paul Whiteman performed a notable concert at Aeolian Hall in which he tried to portray jazz: past, present, and future. The "future" was the world premiere of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"; the "past" was shown in a portrayal of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's "Livery Stable Blues"; and the "present" was the dance band-oriented repertoire of Whiteman's huge orchestra. In the early '80s, this concert seemed to have been rediscovered, with one release having new versions of all of the music from that day. This particular two-LP set is different in that it re-creates the concert with recordings made during the actual period; except for two numbers, all of the selections are from 1920-19. In addition to many performances by Whiteman's dance band (many of which are outside of jazz), there are selections from the ODJB, the Great White Way Orchestra, the Broadway Dance Orchestra, Jean Goldkette, and excerpts from Art Hickman, Gini Marinuzzi's Symphony Orchestra, and Clarence Senna. In addition, novelty pianist Zez Confrey (who was a star at the concert) is heard both solo and with his orchestra on four tunes, including "Kitten on the Keys" and "Nickel in the Slot." Some of the music is quite dated, and the jazz content is not too high, but there are some notable selections, including "Mamma Loves Papa," "Stumbling," "What'll I Do," "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise," and the earliest recording of "Rhapsody in Blue" (with George Gershwin on piano). A very interesting and well-annotated project, but one that will be difficult to find.