Eddie South was a talented jazz violinist who never really achieved the fame that he deserved; though he was a contemporary of Stéphane Grappelli and Stuff Smith, most of his work was for radio and films. As a result, relatively few of his recordings have appeared on CD. So the discovery of 16 of his earliest radio transcription programs, all sponsored by a women's beauty product called Cheloni-Skin, is an important find. They are collected in their entirety on this three-CD compilation, complete with unidentified announcers (and commercials if there is a music bed by South). While the performances ranges from easy listening to Latin pop themes of the era, tangos, gypsy swing, novelty numbers and downright corn, the clarity and preservation of these vintage recordings is surprising. South was a virtuoso violinist who arranged all of the musical selections and also composed a few originals heard on Recorded in Hollywood 1933. Most notable among his band's members are bassist Milt Hinton (who was amazed that these recordings were uncovered) and guitarist Everett Barksdale, both of whom are occasionally heard as soloists and vocalists. The remaining musicians, including Clifford King (clarinet and vocals), pianist Antonia Spaulding (who doubles on celesta), J. Wright Smith (strictly an ensemble violinist) and drummer Jimmy Bertrand, provide strong support for South, even if they don't make much of an impression themselves.
It is very difficult to comment about the music within this collection without taking into context
why it was recorded in the first place: to sell cosmetics. While the typical swing fan may get
impatient with the tedious studio announcer, the novelty pieces and the overly sweet texture
of some songs, South's abilities are never in doubt and are best represented by the occasional standard (including "Star Dust," "Body and Soul," "I'll Never Be the Same," "Three Little Words" and "Moon Songs") and jazz piece (Fats Waller's "If It Ain't Love"). Perhaps the most fascinating discovery is a novelty vocal feature for Hinton, "Throw a Little Salt on the Bluebird's Tail," which also has a bit of scatting. Jazz violin scholar Anthony Barnett contributed the detailed liner notes, while a number of vintage photographs are also included. While this collection will fall outside the interest of some swing fans, anyone interested in early jazz violin ought to investigate these long-obscure performances. The obvious conclusion is what Eddie South might have accomplished if he had only been given greater opportunities to record during his lifetime.