Wednesday, June 19, 2013

George Olsen and His Music..Beyond the Blue Horizon.. 24 original mono recordings 1923 - 1933

George Olsen (originally from Oregon, USA) went from being drum major of the University of Michigan marching band to leading successful pit orchestras for some of the most famous Broadway musical productions of the 1920s. He appeared in numerous Ziegfield follies, George White scandals, etc. His orchestra began recording for Victor records in 1924 and soon became a rival to the top-rated orchestras of Paul Whiteman and Fred Waring. Olsen's most successful recording was the 1925 smash hit, "Who?", and was followed by many others including, "Lucky Day", "Do Do Do", "Varsity Drag", and "Doin' the Racoon". Olsen appeared in the Eddie Cantor talking picture, Whoopee, in 1930. He also was Jack Benny's first orchestra leader when Benny began his weekly show on radio in 1931.

Olsen's recordings were generally up-tempo renditions of Broadway or other popular tunes. The arrangements were complex, musically "busy", and featured a rotation of lead instruments on repetitions of the main theme, driven by a relentless rhythm section of the "boom-chick" variety. The music reflects and embodies the carefree spirit and hyperactivity of the "jazz age". The vocals are remarkably good and surprisingly understated, for the period. The lead singer was usually Fran Frey who had an unpolished-but-effective-and-charming, relaxed, baritone delivery. (Frey was later musical director for the Ice Capades.) Other songs were tastefully and satisfactorily performed by a vocal trio. Several songs on this CD were sung by Olsen's wife, Ethel Shutta, who had an almost angelic, ethereal, soprano voice.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Essence of Jazz Vocals...various artists

The roots of jazz music were very much vocal, with field hollers and ceremonial chants, but while the blues maintained a strong vocal tradition, with singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith heavily influencing the progress of American popular music in general, early jazz bands only featured vocalists periodically, albeit those with a more "bluesy" tone of voice; one of the first "jazz" recordings, the 1917 Original Dixieland Jass Band recordings featured one Sarah Martin as vocalist.

It was Louis Armstrong who established singing as a distinct art form in jazz, realising that a singer could improvise in the same manner as an instrumentalist, and along with American vocalist Adelaide Hall they established scat singing as a central pillar of the jazz vocal art.

The entrance of Billie Holiday into the world of jazz singing in the early 1930s was a revelation. She approached the voice from a radical angle, explaining, in her own words,"I don't feel like I'm singing, I feel like I'm playing the horn." Compared to other great jazz singers, Holiday had a rather limited vocal range of just over an octave. Where Holiday's genius lay, however, was to compensate for this shortcoming, with impeccable timing, nuanced phrasing, and emotional immediacy, qualities admired by a young Frank Sinatra.

With the end of prohibition in the United States, a more "danceable" form of jazz music arose, giving birth to the Swing era, and with it big bands such as those led by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmie Lunceford, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Chick Webb. Many of the great post war jazz singers sang with these bands in the infancy of their careers.

With the end of the Swing era, the great touring Big bands of the past decade were no longer a viable option, and the demise of the typical big band singer was further complicated by the advent of be-bop as a creative force in jazz. The rise of be-bop saw a new style of jazz singer, one who could match instrumentalists for sheer technical skill, and this was evident in Ella Fitzgerald's rise to fame, the art of jazz singing was elevated to even higher rankings, allowing the notion of "free voice" to exist, giving instrumental qualities to the voice through timbres, registers and tessitura.

This 44 track compilation showcases the cream of the jazz vocalists from the 30s, 40s and 50s including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Ivie Anderson, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee and many more........