Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Answers to those quiz questions...

I've been fairly busy the last few weeks with various side projects and have neglected my blog. I'm working on a new entry, but it will probably be another week before I'm completely satisfied with it.

In the meantime, there were those two quiz questions from the previous posting...

Question #1 concerned the Mitchell's Christian Singers record released in Columbia's pricier Masterworks series (usually reserved for classical music). I said that there was a good reason for its placement there and added a (very) big clue: The next record in the series, Columbia 417-M was issued by "Sanders Terry."

Of course, that artist was Saunders Terrell, better known as Sonny Terry. And he and the MCS had just played Carnegie Hall a few days earlier. There was actually quite a flurry of recording activity, spawned by the first From Spirituals to Swing concert that John Hammond produced on Friday, 23 December 1938.

A glance at the Abrams database shows that the following Tuesday, the 27th (Christmas fell on Sunday that year, and would have been officially celebrated Monday the 26th), Brunswick/Vocalion recorded seven songs by Mitchell's Christian Singers (including two they performed at the concert), followed by two by Terry.

A few days later (the 30th), more stars of the concert, a trio of boogie-woogie pianists, Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis came in for their session...recording a total of five titles (the two sides of Boogie Woogie Prayer were issued as takes 1 and 2 of the same matrix number). Two of these sides featured Johnson with blues shouter Joe Turner...this was the beginning of his long recording career.

A few days after that (6 January 1939), all three pianists recorded several twelve-inch sides for Alfred Lion, who was about to launch a new label called Blue Note. Perhaps you've heard of it.....if not, please crawl back under your log.

Question #2 dealt with a mystery cut...I asked what the featured instrument was, and what nationality the performer was.

Shalom correctly identified the mystery was indeed an ocarina...apparently recorded in Portugal (note the P matrix series)in the late 1920s. Here's the record again, but with a label scan and info intact:

P200 Fado Foguete de Lagrimas Antonio Martins Columbia 1058-X

It was hard for me to believe that the lowly "sweet potato" could be capable of such lovely music...I usually hear it in a quasi-country novelty setting.

To be fair, there's an interesting Ocarina Blog ( out there...and several other sites devoted to the instrument. I have a lot more respect for it now.....

Someday I'll get around to posting the Bernie Ladd sides...he and his ocarina recorded a couple of jazz-flavored pieces in the mid-1930s for Decca. the questions out of my (rapidly graying) hair. Hope to post again in a few days...

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