Various Artists

Gennett Rarities

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Recorded in Birmingham, AL and Richmond, IN between July 1927 and October 1929, the performances reissued on this compilation are precious examples of musical entertainments commonly encountered in the Midwest and the Deep South during the years immediately preceding the Great Depression. Based in Richmond, Henry Gennett's Starr Piano Company had begun making records to sell with its phonographs in 1916; for various practical as well as legal reasons, after the end of the First World War the recording division switched to lateral rather than vertical-cut technology, and the label itself was changed from Starr to Gennett. Henry Gennett's youngest son Fred was the individual who suggested the name change. He was also responsible for the ambitious expansion of the company's catalog to include an ever-increasing number of non-white musicians. In December 1926 Fred Gennett conducted an experimental field expedition to Arizona where he recorded the songs of Hopi Indians with the intention of peddling the records to tourists visiting the Grand Canyon. About a dozen selections, with titles like "Tuwina'Av" and "Tacheuktu Katcina" were issued in early 1927. By the summer of that year young Gennett was supervising a series of recording sessions that were held in a makeshift recording studio on the third floor of the Starr Piano Store at 1820 Third Avenue South in Birmingham, AL Unlike the Hopi discs and most everything that had appeared previously on Gennett, these platters were made using the innovative General Electric recording apparatus. The range of styles and genres was as diverse as the population from which the music arose: country, gospel, ragtime, barrelhouse, blues and jazz were all performed in front of the newly designed microphones. Jazz Oracle's selection of the cream of the Birmingham dates is superb, especially when combined with a passel of hot sides recorded back home in Indiana. Here is an opportunity to experience music made long ago by nearly forgotten musicians like the Triangle Harmony Boys, the Black Birds of Paradise, Dunk Rendleman and the Alabamians, Frank Bunch & His Fuzzy Wuzzies and Syd Valentine's Patent Leather Kids, a gutsy little trio known also as Skillet Dick & His Frying Pans.

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