The two-disc European jazz compilation Lost Chords 1915-1945 is a musical companion to Richard M. Sudhalter's book of the same name, and, like it, is subtitled "White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz." Sudhalter, who compiled and produced the album, notes in his book and in his liner notes that, as part of the academic trend toward multiculturalism, there is a revisionist trend toward disparaging the efforts of white people in the development of jazz and defining it as strictly a black musical form. Sudhalter's politically incorrect response is to document the part played by whites, and it may be that this album makes his argument more convincingly than his book could, since it places the evidence before the listener. To be sure, Sudhalter achieves his goal by carefully choosing his examples. Despite the title, the recordings really date from 1920 to 1944, with the majority from the '20s, only ten coming from after the start of the swing era, and only two of those being performed by big bands. For the most part, this is small-band work done by musicians who were still working out what jazz was, which is part of Sudhalter's point. Many of these musicians may have made their livings working in society orchestras or on radio (occupations largely closed to black society), but they found time to indulge their taste in hot playing in the recording studio. Dixieland is the dominant style here, and that wailing form allows plenty of opportunity for soloing. Among the hundreds of musicians represented, Sudhalter showcases figures who were indisputably creative jazzmen, among them Nick LaRocca, Ben Pollack, Frank Trumbauer, Red Nichols, Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Lang, Adrian Rollini, Joe Venuti, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Frank Teschemacher, Max Kaminsky, Eddie Condon, Jack Teagarden, Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Red Norvo, Buddy Rich, and Dave Tough, as well as singers Lee Wiley, the Boswell Sisters, and Mildred Bailey. Some of the musicians are better known for their "sweet" work, but Sudhalter locates tracks that show off their jazz bona fides, even coming up with an impressive performance of "Sensation Stomp" from the much-maligned (by jazz critics) Paul Whiteman. Of course, this in only part of the story of jazz, but then Sudhalter is trying to make a specific point, not rewrite history. (That, he charges, is what others are trying to do.) He makes that point successfully; it would be hard to argue that whites had not contributed to early jazz after listening to this album. And, of course, leaving aside the academic imbroglio, this is simply a terrific collection to hear.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2