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1932 - The Complete Set

The Rhythmakers

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Album Review

In 1932 Duke Ellington experimented with stereophonic sound, Cab Calloway came out with a manic recording of the "St. Louis Blues," and a hot little jazz band made a series of sides for Banner Records with vocals by trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen, pianist Fats Waller, and chortling wonders Billy Banks and Chick Bullock. Some of these records were issued under the heading of guitarist Jack Bland's Rhythmakers; other releases gave Billy Banks top billing. Decades later, these recordings were systematically reissued; the Classics Chronological series devoted an entire album to Billy Banks that included six titles that do not appear on other complete Rhythmakers collections, presumably because they were originally issued as by Billy Banks & His Orchestra. Then EPM combined all of the Rhythmakers master takes with numerous alternates for a collector's edition in their Jazz Archives series. In 2006 Retrieval outdid EPM by digging up and adding alternative versions of "A Shine on Your Shoes" and "Someone Stole Gabriel's Horn" for a total of 26 tracks. Clearly the EPM and Retrieval collections were intended for people who love to wallow in alternate takes; the only conceivable way to outdo Retrieval would be to add the six titles from the chronological Banks on Classics. As it is, each surplus side may be cherished and studied carefully by those who go in for this sort of historic listening experience, and rest assured that four different versions of "Oh Peter (You're So Nice)" are enough to alter anyone's brain chemistry for an entire afternoon. What makes the Rhythmakers so exciting are the collective efforts of musicians who were on the cutting edge of musical development as the hot jazz of the '20s evolved steadily into what would soon be known to the general public as swing. In addition to Waller and Allen, at various points the Rhythmakers had in their front line trombonist Tommy Dorsey and clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, who sometimes doubled on tenor sax while his friend and inspiration Jimmy Lord handled clarinet. In addition to Bland, the rest of the band consisted of tenor saxophonist Happy Caldwell, banjoist Eddie Condon, bassist Pops Foster, pianist Frank Froeba, and drummer Zutty Singleton. Banks and Bullock both sang in clarion tenor voices; "A Shine on Your Shoes" (also popularized by Fred Astaire) is guaranteed to simulate the effects of strong coffee or Benzedrine. The best singing in this stack of old records is by Henry "Red" Allen, although some may wish to dive in just to experience Fats Waller's falsetto contribution to "Mean Old Bed Bug Blues."

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