W.C. Handy's Beale Street: Where the Blues Began
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As a compendium of both famous and little-known melodies by W.C. Handy, Carl Wolfe's Where the Blues Began is virtually unparalleled. Twenty-one instrumental interpretations are performed by a wind sextet (trumpet, trombone, clarinet, two saxophones, and tuba) backed by violin, banjo, and piano. Wolfe's informative liner notes provide contextual background for each melody, and the overall listening/reading experience is also a highly rewarding history lesson. For example, "Harlem Blues," published in 1923, contains a passage from the folk song "I've Laid Around This Town Too Long"; "Friendless Blues" from 1926 is built around "Got No Mo' Home Than a Dog," and Handy's "Atlanta Blues" of 1924 is closely based upon "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor." Carl Wolfe's devotion to Handy's oeuvre is remarkable, and it's worth noting that nowhere on the exterior album packaging is there any mention of Wolfe or his players. The star of the show is William Christopher Handy. His old-time blues-based melodies published during the years 1913-1932 are beautifully presented in a rather austere manner of which the composer would surely have approved.