Various Artists

Jazz & Blues Piano, Vol. 2: 1924-1947

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Document's second volume of Jazz & Blues Piano is typical of that label's profile in that rare historic material is generously made available to a range of potential listeners much wider than a handful of select archivists whose lives revolve around 78 rpm platters. Document's willingness to include records of almost unbelievable scratchiness is given free reign as track two, a "much abused Paramount" pressing of an alternate take of Jimmy Blythe's "Chicago Stomp" demonstrates a strange effect whereby the surface noise completely dominates the music to the point where the dynamics of the hard-to-hear piano are weirdly mimicked by the scratches. Aside from this extreme example, almost everything else on this collection comes across more or less intact, and the stylistic variety demonstrated over two dozen tracks is quite impressive. The opening course includes a carefully executed blues sung by Everett Robbins; two invigorating, food-titled piano solos that constitute Fred Longshaw's only recordings as a soloist (he is best remembered for his work with Bessie Smith); and a pair of blues sung by Maude Mills, one of which is a rare outtake of "I've Got the Joogie Blues" with young Fats Waller on the 88s. The staid piano of Clarence Williams is heard behind pop singer Andy Pendleton; Bert M. Mays performs an ancient version of "You Can't Come In" and Grey Gull recording artist Glory Bernard is accompanied by Porter Grainger, who gently puffs away at a train whistle during the "South Bound Blues." The chronology advances into the 1930s with hokum and barrelhouse numbers by Georgia Tom, Charlie Spand, Roosevelt Sykes, Walter Davis, and Clarence Williams, now singing with almost too-rigid press rolls generated by drummer Cozy Cole. Two additional visitations from Sykes find him in excellent voice and supported by Big Sid Catlett, a drummer who usually recorded with swing bands. Five sure reasons to consider obtaining this collection are the duets recorded in 1944 by pianist Tut Soper with punchy New Orleans drummer Baby Dodds. Jesse Crump is heard accompanying his wife, legendary blues singer Ida Cox, on the soundtrack of a film shot in 1947 called A Woman's a Fool. Finally, and this is one heck of a nice coda, James Scott's "Grace and Beauty Rag" is brusquely performed over the radio by John "Knocky" Parker, one-time member of the Light Crust Doughboys. Altogether a fascinating collection, and it's worth owning the disc just for the sake of Tut Soper and Baby Dodds.

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