Various Artists

Hot Dance Bands from OKeh 1923-1931

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In 2007 the Retrieval historic reissue label brought out a chronologically arranged double-CD anthology of obscure hot dance band recordings made between November 1923 and February 1931 and released on 78-rpm platters bearing wine-red labels imprinted with the OKeh logo. Back then it was standard practice for phonograph record companies to maintain racially segregated catalogs. This compilation focuses upon 24 Caucasian OKeh dance bands, most of them quite obscure from the retrospective vantage point of the 21st century. Individuals who are lucky enough to own a copy of this amazing collection will have ready access to the sounds of the Scranton Sirens (from Pennsylvania), the Palledo Orchestra of St. Louis; Harold Leonard & His Red Jackets; trumpeter Frankie Quartell & His Little Club Orchestra; violinist Ace Brigode & His Fourteen Virginians; and bands led by violinist Irwin Abrams and pianists Mike Markel and Fred Rich. Ensembles named after landmark businesses include Vincent Lopez & His Hotel Pennsylvania Orchestra; trombonist Mickey Guy & His Rose Tree Café Orchestra; Gus Arnheim & His Ambassador Hotel Orchestra (with "Whispering Cornetist" Roy Fox and violinist Russ Columbo); Jack Glassner & His Colonial Inn Orchestra; and pianist Arnold Frank & His Roger's Café Orchestra, whose OKeh record was cut on site at the Radisson Hotel in Minneapolis in September 1927. Although the exact identity of the Carolina Club Orchestra is surprisingly difficult to ascertain, it was likely led by Hal Kemp. When he wasn't operating a dance band under his own name, Sam Lanin fronted the Arkansas Travelers (with trombonist Miff Mole, C-melody saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer, pianist Rube Bloom, and vocalist Vernon Dalhart) as well as the Melody Sheiks (with trumpeter Red Nichols, tuba titan Joe Tarto, and legendary early jazz drummer Vic Berton). Other supreme but nearly forgotten delights include music by Milt Shaw & His Detroiters, the Jazz Pilots (one of many novelty groups led by banjoist Harry Reser), a band directed by Cleveland violinist Emerson Gill, and another by pianist Sol S. Wagner with incidental vocals by the Brown Sisters & Green. Ed Kirkeby, later famous for being Fats Waller's manager, steered two of the bands on this collection; the "Ted Wallace" orchestra and the Goofus Five. Both were quite similar to Kirkeby's main group, a prolific recording ensemble known as the California Ramblers. In addition to the handful of authentic early jazz heroes already mentioned, trombonist Jack Teagarden, saxophonists Jimmy Dorsey and Adrian Rollini, and guitarist Dick McDonough show up as members of a dance band led by pianist/accordionist Cornell Smelser. Retrieval's Hot Dance Bands from OKeh 1923-1931 is a unique and fascinating archive of historical treasures that are guaranteed to amuse, amaze, and entertain.

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