Various Artists

Earliest Negro Vocal Groups, Vol. 4

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Volume four in Document's Earliest Negro Vocal Groups series mainly focuses upon recordings made for the Okeh record company during the year 1921. Although the Southland Jubilee Singers (also known as the Old Southland Jubilee Singers and the Old Southland Sextet) were a mixed-gender ensemble, only the men went to New York to make records in 1921. The sternly paced "My Lord's Writing All the Time" is a marvel of concise ritualized harmony that can be heard several times in succession without losing its peculiar potency. "My Lord's Gonna Move This Wicked Race" was recorded in 1924, this time with women's voices predominating. Unlike several of the groups heard in this series, the Virginia Female Jubilee Singers were not vaudevillians. They most likely performed at camp meetings and other Southern religious gatherings. Members of the Palmetto Jazz Quartet, on the other hand, mostly immersed themselves in the barbershop harmony tradition with creatively applied pop/jazz overtones. Their use of silence, polyphony, and gradual pacing still makes for fascinating listening (see "Sweet Mama" and "My Jazz Gal"). The Gulf Coast Quartet (probably based in Alabama and since identified as Sterling Grant, Cecil Rivers, Lemuel Jackson, and Archie Cross) was more or less a holdover from the earlier days of minstrelsy. Their two charming Columbia recordings, dating from 1923, polish off yet another entertaining anthology of long-gone but never to be forgotten Afro-American harmony vocal groups. With the exception of track six which has piano accompaniment by one Eugene A. Burkes, all of the songs on this compilation are performed a cappella.

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