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Artist: Various Artists
Title: The Famous "blackbirds" Revues
Format: CD
Catalog Number:157
Barcode:5019317015725 itemnumber=1000119342
Price: $20.98  (All prices include domestic shipping.)
Release Date: 4/15/2016
Availability: In Stock
Additional Musical Category Notes:

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Revues consisting entirely of black artists had been known and accepted with great enthusiasm on Broadway and nearby since Eubie Blake, the great jazz pianist and composer who died five days after his 100th birthday in February, 1983, and Noble Sissle directed “Shuffle Along” in 1921; in London, as long ago as 1903 (at the Shaftesbury Theatre on May 16 that year) “In Dahomey” had been presented, starring the great Bert Williams, and almost exactly twenty years later, at the London Pavilion on May 31, 1923, the curtain rose on a splendid Charles B. Cochran production for which half was performed by black musicians, singers and dancers. This was “Dover Street To Dixie”, and it starred the late lamented Florence Mills of the sweet voice and feather-light dancing. It was on September 11, 1926, that Cochran presented another all-black show, also at the Pavilion, called simply “Blackbirds”. The cast again included Florence Mills, and featured the large show-band known simply as the Plantation Orchestra, It had been trained in New York by Will Vodery, who had directed the band in “Dover Street To Dixie”, and featured the “hot” trumpet of Johnny Dunn. Although the show was a smash hit, running for 279 performances, only the first four tracks in this album were recorded. The chance to record the legendary Florence Mills was thus forever lost; within a few weeks of returning home to New York after “Blackbirds” closed, the “little blackbird” was dead, at the age of 32. The Orchestra on the showing of these records, which sold extremely well, was a close-knit, well-drilled but swinging unit, but with Johnny Dunn soloing only on Arabella’s Wedding Day, though he can be heard riding on top of the band, so to speak, on all the others. Tall, polished and gifted with the ability to play jazz without obvious effort, Dunn was lionised by London society. The records were requested by critics from various periodicals, and were very well received by the public. Lew Leslie in New York was responsible for assembling and training the cast, but he did not have any success with similar material on Broadway until he presented “Blackbirds Of 1928” in the Liberty Theatre there on May 9, 1928, and it ran for 518 performances. It was full of great numbers, many of them subsequently becoming jazz classics. This show, by far the most popular of the series in America, is the one receiving the most coverage on records. Apart from the Plantation Orchestra’s four sides, and tracks 7 and 8 on this CD, the entire recording is devoted to the 1928 production. Following the four 1926 titles recorded in London, we have two made by a similarly-constituted orchestra in 1928, but without Johnny Dunn. It says much for the popularity of the songs that they could be a commercial proposition on record three months after the first night of the show. These two were even issued in Germany! Strangely, in the last few weeks of 1932, and the first in 1933, it was considered worthwhile reviving on records issued as an album set, the best songs in the 1928 production, with Adelaide Hall from the original cast and an all-star supporting team. By 1932, record production in the USA had dropped almost beyond recall compared to that of the golden years of “Coolidge prosperity,” yet the “Blackbirds Of 1928” album still managed reasonable sales five years later (it was issued in the spring of 1933). In it we have not only the superlative Adelaide Hall, accompanied by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra in I Must Have That Man and Baby, but the Duke and his men also provide a perfect backing to the Mills Brothers in Diga Diga Doo (rather a saucy song for those days!) and Esme! Waters in I Can’t Give You Anything But Love and Porgy, while the Mills Brothers sing Anything But Love by themselves, Doin’ The New Low Down assisted by Don Redman, master arranger and excellent clarinet and sax player, and his Orchestra, and the vocal contortions of Cab Calloway, no less, and Harry and Donald Mills, again with Don Redman’s orchestra, sing Shuffle Your Feet and Bandana Babies. Redman also backs Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, surely the most agile tap-dancer of all time, tapping and singing Doin’ The New Low Down. Of special interest is the version of St. Louis Blues sung a capella by Ethel Waters and the Cecil Mack Choir; the lyrics are quite different from those normally sung on countless recordings by all kinds of singers from the incomparable Bessie Smith to - well, I’ll name no names. Here, the most popular blues of all becomes a truly uplifting experience. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, with soloists Cootie Williams (trumpet). Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton (trombone) and Johnny Hodges (alto sax) provide the grand finale with seven “Blackbirds Of 1928” songs, one of which - Dixie - is not represented elsewhere. The other two tracks not so far referred to in this note are You’re Lucky To Me and Memories Of You, which were composed by Andy Razaf to Eubie Blake’s music for a short-lived “Blackbirds Of 1930”. Depression had begun to spread its mantle of gloom over so many facets of entertainment by then, but it is most pleasant to have these two souvenirs of what, in happier times, would have surely rivalled its predecessor. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra again provide the music, while white Canadian Dick Robertson sings a chorus of each. In 1934, “Blackbirds” in a suitably up-dated edition, starring the black trumpeter, singer and dancer Valaida Snow, opened in London at the Coliseum, and in each of the next two years there followed further editions, which were quite successful, but which belong to another era. There can be no doubt that the London production of 1926 and the New York one two years latter were the hits that made the greatest impact on the public, for their songs are still sung, they are still fresh. The tracks in this set tell us why. This collection includes Duke Ellington And His Orchestra, Don Redman And His Orchestra, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ethel Waters, Adelaide Hall, Cab Calloway, The Mills Brothers, Johnny Dunn’s Plantation Orchestra, Lew Leslie’s “Blackbirds” Orchestra and The Cecil Mack Choir.

Track Listing

Silver Rose; Arabella’s Wedding Day; Smiling Joe; For Baby And Me


Bandana Babies; Magnolia’s Wedding Day


You’re Lucky To Me; Memories Of You


I Can’t Give You Anything But Love


Diga Diga Doo


St. Louis Blues


Doin’ The New Low Down


I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; Porgy


Doin’ The New Low Down


I Must Have That Man; Baby


Shuffle Your Feet and Bandana Babies


24. “Blackbirds&” Finale: I Can&’t Give You Anything But Love; Doin&’ The New Low Down; I Must Have That Man; Baby; Dixie; Diga Diga Doo; Porgy; I Can&’t Give You Anything But Love (Reprise)

Additional Technical Information Available For This Album
Release Format: CD         
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