Eddie Lang

A Handful of Riffs

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Almost always presented in tandem reissues with violinist Joe Venuti, early jazz guitar virtuoso Eddie Lang here receives an outstanding and well-deserved tribute: 21 chronologically arrayed classic jazz and blues recordings made between 1927 and 1929 without a trace of Venuti but featuring a number of gifted musicians. Lang is heard by himself on "April Kisses"; accompanied by pianists Frank Signorelli and Arthur Schutt; and in duet with blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson. Crossing the color line during an era when record company executives feared that racially mingled ensembles might offend the public, Lang whimsically ducked behind the pseudonym "Blind Willie Dunn" whenever making records with musicians of African ancestry. Blind Willie Dunn's Gin Bottle Four consisted of Johnson and Lang, pianist J.C. Johnson, and cornetist King Oliver. This excellent example of Oliver blowing his horn in an intimate setting features a mysterious individual tapping a bottle with a pencil and singing "Oh, pass that gin." While some sources identify him as percussionist Justin Ring (who plays chimes on "Church Street Sobbin' Blues"), Living Era posits instead the presence of Hoagy Carmichael. This is not an unreasonable conjecture given the fact that Carmichael is heard six months later playing piano and celeste with Eddie Lang & His Orchestra. Lang's other orchestra date featured the brothers Dorsey and tuba titan Joe Tarto. With all respect to the missing Joe Venuti, this very well could be the best Eddie Lang album of them all.

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