By James Calemine
This 3 CD set explores the earliest recorded history of the string bass. These recordings include a scope of symphony ensembles, jazz orchestras and early rockabilly bands. Recorded from 1925-1941, these 79 songs provide an interesting look at the musical styles this instrument fit into.
Atlanta’s Dust-To-Digital (read about the label in Insured Beyond The Grave) releases this box set from a collection of rare 78 rpm recordings. The 96 page vintage booklet (including great photographs) traces the evolution of the string bass while outlining the enclosed artists and songs.
Even though the instrument was difficult to record, this collection of compositions features the string bass which, in time, replaced the tuba in big bands. Later, Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe began employing the string bass for their sound. The most modern and remembered string bass player would be Bill Black who stood onstage with Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley while they played “Mystery Train”…
This collection captures the essence of this almost forgotten instrument. This collection traces the musical heritage and origins of the string bass. New Orleans proved a location where the string bass earned its resounding place in the music. Without a doubt the string bass was indigenous to the southern bands.
Disc one hits the listener with an old sound from another era. Prolific musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton (“Black Bottom Stomp”), Sam Morgan’s Jazz Band (“Down By The Riverside”), Joe Turner And His Memphis Men (“Beggar’s Blues”), Walter Page And Original Blue Devils (“Squabblin’”) and a classic Atlanta 1928 recording of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waiting For A Train” serve as gems.
The artists featured on disc two render a powerful collection that displays the wide musical range the instrument provided. These are some of the most amazing recordings in a musical era that, for the most part, has gone ignored, overlooked or forgotten until now.
Necessary mentions on the second disc include: Jack Teagarden And His Orchestra, The New Orleans Fretwarmers, The Prairie Ramblers, Roy Acuff, Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys and Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra.
Disc three hovers around the work of jazz and ragtime pioneer Bill Johnson. Born in Alabama, Johnson also played guitar, and remains one of the earliest purveyors of jazz. He even played banjo on King Oliver’s first records. Disc three highlights Johnson’s work with the Dixie Four, State Street Ramblers, The Midnight Rounders, Rev. D.C. Rice And His Sanctified Congregation, Louisiana Jug Band and Tampa Red’s Hokum Jug Band.
How Low Can You Go? serves as a glorious musical education.