The 1922-1923 recordings of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings are essential listening for anyone trying to piece together the evolution of New Orleans/Chicago-style jazz (see Classics 1129). To be permitted chronological access to everything that subsequently appeared under the banner of the NORK is a ticket to Elysium for all lovers of classic jazz. The first six selections, recorded in New Orleans near the beginning of 1925, reveal a much different band than the ensembles of 1923. Obviously, Jelly Roll Morton isn't directly involved anymore, even if "Golden Leaf Blues" sounds a lot like "Milenberg Joys." Paul Mares and Leon Roppolo retain their position at the center of things, but trombonist George Brunies has been replaced by the dashing Santo Pecora. Each little three-minute performance is solid and warm. Now the action moves up to New York City. A small cluster of originally unissued test pressings from June of 1934 includes a vaudeville version of "Shine" by a quartet calling itself "the Four Bales of Cotton," with scatting, trumpeting, and friendly patter by Wingy Manone. Although "Shine," with its mildly Jim Crow lyrics, always does better as an instrumental, this theatrical singalong approach is somehow fascinating. The same session yielded two hot instrumentals by a reassembled Rhythm Kings with a front line of Manone, either Brunies or Pecora, clarinetist Sidney Arodin, and the tenor saxophone of Eddie Miller. Why these sides were rejected in 1934 is anybody's guess. By September of that year, Decca was taking them more seriously. Brunies and Manone led a six-piece mob through eight outstanding stomps. Arodin's marvelous "San Antonio Shout" is succeeded by one traditional jazz anthem after the next. Their handling of "Jazz Me Blues" is particularly tasty. The session of September 26 was shaped by a deliberate emphasis on material harking back to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Back in Chicago on January 26, 1935, Paul Mares led his own version of a reconstituted Rhythm Kings band, referencing the earliest NORK sessions by reviving the Friars Society Orchestra name. The appropriately titled "Reincarnation" is elegantly, majestically blue. "Land of Dreams," "Nagasaki," and "Maple Leaf" swing hard. Pecora is back, along with the mighty Omer Simeon and a tough alto sax player by the name of Boyce Brown. The last band to record under this name in the 1930s had a strong front line in Muggsy Spanier, George Brunies, and Eddie Miller. Two of the numbers are hot Fats Waller spinoffs, while "No Lovers Allowed" is OK and "Since We Fell Out of Love" has notably stupid lyrics, made insufferable by Red McKenzie, who insists on warbling away at each song without mercy. Either you love him or you want to cram a comb down his throat. Whenever the singer runs out of lyrics, Muggsy's cornet shines like the harvest moon.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
feat: Four Bales Of Cotton