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Liner Notes

From "Rare Hot Dance: The Music Sensation of the 1920s & 30s" (1924-1931)
Vintage Music Productions 0041 (CD)

Though rarely heard, today, these recordings express the quintessential sound of the 1920s and early 30s. They are the bands, and the songs they played, that one would expect to hear when gathering around the radio or going to a hotel ballroom. Many of the artists, heard on this CD, are now legendary. The great Miff Mole, for instance, can be heard on three of the songs, including one that is being issued on CD for the first time. On this title (track 5), both Mole and Joe Venuti deliver memorable solos with the band of Roger Wolfe Kahn.

The unique and nostalgic quality of recordings from this era is attributable, in part, to the instruments used and the way they were played. Backed by a rhythm section that typically included a tuba (instead of a string bass, which was seldom used before the late 1920s) and the steady strumming of a banjo or acoustic guitar, songs of this period can often be identified by a muted cornet or the unmistakable tone of a c-melody sax. Though rare beyond the 1920s, the c-melody saxophone was a staple of both early jazz and hot dance bands. Two of the artists most associated with this instrument were Frankie Trumbauer and Jack Pettis, both of whom can be heard on this CD (tracks 1 and 2).

Another sound identified with this era was the unique vocal harmonics that emerged during the period. Listen, for instance, to Helen Rowland and Paul Small on "You Said It" (track 23). While doing so, tune your ears to the song's clarinet solo. It would still be a number of years before he would emerge as the premiere bandleader of his day, but at 21, this clarinet virtuoso, named Benny Goodman, was already in his fifth year of recording.

~ Jeff Hopkins
March 2001

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