Joe Venuti


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The recordings made under Joe Venuti's name during the years immediately following the sudden and premature death of Eddie Lang on March 26, 1933, often have a somewhat strange quality to them. Venuti was crushed by this personal loss and must have still been mourning the death of his friend and musical companion when the two opening tracks -- concluding the session that produced the thrilling "Vibraphonia" -- were recorded on May 8th. Six sides waxed in September of 1933 for the Banner label feature vocalist Don Elton, infinitely better on the upbeat novelties than as a crooner suspended in syrup. This smooth band had a young Max Kaminsky in the brass section and Bud Freeman in the reeds. The creamy, beautiful "Moon Glow" is one of Venuti's best-known sides from this period, and with good reason. The band on the completely instrumental Columbia session from one week later is the best group on the entire package, with Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, and Adrian Rollini on the front line. It is worth noting that the great Dick McDonough was now established as Eddie Lang's replacement. His work on this session demonstrates exactly why. "In de Ruff" turns out to be King Oliver's "Dipper Mouth Blues," later known as "Sugar Foot Stomp." A Bluebird session from October 13th yielded four more instrumentals -- three of them by Will Hudson -- beginning with a rousing "Fiddlesticks." On "Phantom Rhapsody" and Benny Carter's "Everybody Shuffle," this band sounds a bit like Fletcher Henderson's, except of course for the fiddle. Venuti spent the rest of the year recording for Banner. Dolores Reade, presenting a couple of melodies by Irving Berlin, had more charm and substance than Howard Phillips and Slim Fortier put together. Even the least of these sides are fascinating for those who enjoy studying jazz and popular music from the early '30s.

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