Paul Whiteman

Sweet and Low Down: Vol. 3, Original 1925-1928 Recordings

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The third volume in Naxos Nostalgia's series of reissues of Paul Whiteman's Victor recordings of the 1920s finds the bandleader at the peak of his popularity, turning out a series of effervescent performances of novelty tunes and standards. Only a handful of these tracks are cited by chart historians as notable hits for Whiteman, in particular "Valencia," but the collection offers a good cross section of the kind of material he cut in this period and how he approached it. Three-quarters of a century later, the songs often sound frivolous and of their time, but it's worth noting that, in the mid-'20s, a tune that might sound harmless now may have been more subversive. "Just a Little Drink," in which singer Billy Murray (the great comic tenor of the 1900s and 1910s, here in one of his late appearances) makes clear that he's longing for some alcoholic refreshment, constituted conspiracy to commit a felony in the Prohibition Era of 1925. Nevertheless, most of this material is performed with a sense of zesty fun, as Whiteman keeps the tempos marching, usually at a foxtrot pace. The recordings are transfers from original Victor 78s made by producer David Lennick, with extensive noise-reduction processing performed by Graham Newton. Since the tracks date from the start of the electrical method of recording, there is more to work with, and the sound is quite good. Still, the Naxos Nostalgia series is not a scholarly reissue program, but rather a sampling of vintage Whiteman tracks that is representative of the period. (Since most Whiteman reissues covering these years seem to go out of their way to include tracks with vocals by Bing Crosby, it is notable that this one seems to go out of its way not to.)

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