Various Artists

The Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets (1894-1928)

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A treasure trove for archivists, Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets (1894-1928) compiles 23 impossibly rare recordings spotlighting the African-American four-part harmony singing style which predated both jazz and the blues. The real treat here is the lone surviving recording by the Standard Quintette, 1894's "Keep Movin'"; a cylinder cut for Columbia, it is in fact the only black music recording of its time to survive into the 20th century, and as a piece of history alone it's invaluable. The first-ever commercial recordings by a black group, cut in 1902 by the Dinwiddle Colored Quartet, are included, as well, as are tracks by the Apollo Male Quartette and Polk Miller & His Old South Quartette. Understandably, the music here is buried under considerable surface noise; casual listeners may wish to pass, but for historians the release of Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets (1894-1928) is a major event.

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