Joe Venuti

The Classic Columbia and Okeh Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang Sessions

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A remarkable listening experience, this glorious eight-CD limited-edition set brings together virtually all of the jazz-oriented recordings made by violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang for the Okeh and Columbia labels from 1926 through 1933. (The non-jazz tracks are not included, and several alternate takes were not discovered in time to include in the set.) The sound quality is astonishingly clear thanks to modern engineering techniques and, as with all Mosaic releases, the oversized booklet contains great photos, detailed discographies, insightful background essays, and track-by-track analyses. As for the music: It should raise some eyebrows. Both Venuti and Lang were innovators and, just as importantly, major soloists who consistently created new and exciting ways of communicating. Whether playing alone, in duo, or with big bands, these two underrated players produced a body of work that stands as a critical bastion of early modern jazz. Among those who participate are trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Red Nichols, trombonist Jack Teagarden, and vocalists Bing Crosby and Bessie Smith. The last disc contains some wonderful novelty arrangements in which Venuti's goofy side comes to the fore. Lovingly and meticulously produced, the release of this wondrous boxed set is an important event. Due to their historical significance and -- even more so -- their pure musicality, these seminal recordings belong in every jazz collection as a prime example of 1920s and '30s jazz at its finest.