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pajaro ciego

Mixed into a musty box of the usual suspects (Ken Griffin, Frankie Carle, etc) this week were a few Argentine 78s on Odeon. We don’t sell many 78s these days, and find even fewer this fun. We refer collections of them to our old friends at Vintage Music Company, who specialize in 78s, cylinder recordings, and vintage machines. Their motto — Explore the past and preserve it for the future — says it all. Any collector of vintage recordings will have a wonderful time visiting their shop.

Our small selection of 78s include mostly swing and pop records which have been mixed into collections of LPs. Sadly, for most post-war 78s, the supply out there seems to far exceed the demand. Every box is still fun to flip through, and we often enjoy playing those dime-a-dozen pop records — these songs were such a delight we thought we’d share them.

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“Pajaro Ciego” by Rodolpho A. Biagi

There’s an enchanting magic to the music of pianist Rodolpho Biago — no surprise fans called him Manos Brujas (“Spellbinding hands”). His late 30s tenure with Juan D’Arienzo’s Orchestra contribute to the band’s enormous influence on tango, which shifted from slower, more romantic pieces to the dynamic style more familiar to listeners beyond Argentina. Biagi began his career in his early teens, accompanying silent films in theaters.

His sense of rhythm could be deceptively simple, almost monotonous, yet entirely enchanting. D’Arienzo’s first hit with Biagi at the keyboard, “La Puñalada” (“The Stab”), was a national sensation and also a revival of the early century 2/4 tango. Biagi left the D’Arienzo to form his own orchestra in 1938, which toured Latin America extensively for decades, popularizing the pianist’s unique rhythmic take on tango and later milonga. Biagi’s orchestra was the first to appear on Argentine television.

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“Brasil Moreno – 1st Parte”

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“Brasil Moreno – 2nd Parte”

Baritone Candido Botelho is known as one of finest contemporary interpreters of the songs of composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. He was also very successful as a singer of romantic pop songs — his most famous hit was a 1941 recording of Ary Barroso’s “Canta Maria.” The lively song on the 78 we found is from the soundtrack of Joujoux et Balangandans (“Knick Knacks and Trinkets”), and Betelho’s arrangement sounds almost as suited for Felix the Cat or Bugs Bunny as for a dance band.

 

It’s not yet April and already 2015 has been a banner year for power pop trios here in Minneapolis. One of the first local releases we reviewed here was New Noir by Mystery Date, which hasn’t been far from our turntable since. No less an authority than Maximumrockandroll picked it as“record of the week” recently, describing it as “strangely catchy and poppy, while also a little bit eerie and dark.” And if you finally unsnagged yourself from all the hooks on Rank Strangers‘ new album Lady President, you’ll find yourself caught up in them all over again: the band plans to release two more LPs before the end of the year.

And then there’s this disc which — to borrow a phrase from that Maximumrockandroll review — blew our socks off. What Tyrants’ debut, No Luck, is an addictive album at the nexus between garage rock, power pop and the down-on-my-luck, unemployed and unrequited-love tunes of Mike Ness. Brothers Sean and Kyle Schultz play their respective parts on guitar and drums with the sort of intuition we suppose you’re supposed to expect from brothers — and bassist Garrison Grouse walks through the trios tight arrangements with class and charm not at all removed from John Entwistle’s role on Live at Leeds. Absolutely everything about this disc succeeds in reminding us why we love rock and roll in all its glorious forms.

DSC07243What Tyrants’ first release was a single featuring an earlier version of this album’s catchy opener, “Far Out.” It fell flat on our ears last summer for its lo-fi production. There’s nothing wrong with sounding good, even in garage rock: its why, for instance, we love a good 45 of the Standell’s “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” played loud, and its why we love No Luck so much. Killer tunes “Lean on the World” have a fantastic drive, given the same healthy li’l nudge by their clean drum sound. Recording engineer Ali Jaafar knows how to hit that garage-y sweet spot, even though his Ecstattic Studio is actually in an attic (and incidentally, give a listen to this recent compilation of other surprisingly diverse Ecstattic recordings). The record has the right rough edges, especially in its reverb-tastic vocals and crisp lead riffs, and you’re going to find it best played loud.

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“Muffins”

And you should, because it touches on all the things that makes one want to play a record loud. The trio approaches classic arena rock in the magnificent “Feeling Alright (I’m Okay)” — a song which we think oughta join Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” and the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” in the great canon of rock songs about, you know, feelin’ alright — with the same stunning success as their take on the whole garage rock thing. Shades of rockabilly make “4s and 5s” a fun song, just before good old fashioned punk rock steals the scene moments later in “Scuzz,” where Grouse and Kyle Schultz jumps into an unexpected psych rock breakdown just before the end of its minute and forty second mania. You can, by the way, hear and download the whole album here.

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“Far Out”

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“Feeling Alright (I’m Okay)”

There’s even a few little hints of the rhythm & blues vis-à-vis new wave Sean Schultz and Grouse have been performing together with ol’ Hymie’s favorites Black Diet, as in the Television/Blondie-ish rocksteady beat of “Blue in the Face.” What Tryrants put the whole mix together with originality and striking sincerity — its like they raided our record collection and found new ways to make our favorites work together. And it all works so well: If we may borrow again from that Maximumrockandroll review of the Mystery Date album, “these guys clearly believe in what they’re doing.” This is one of our very favorite local releases yet out this year. You’ll be hearing it a lot around here.

What Tyrants have an album release show for No Luck this Friday, April 3rd, at the Triple Rock Social Club. Also playing are Fury Things, Some Pulp and Ripper. Details through Facebook can be found here, as well as on the Triple Rock calendar.

 

We’re very excited to welcome Tuscon, Arizona folk singer Karima Walker to the shop for a performance on Wednesday night. She will be joined by Sterling Roots and Crow Call, one of our favorite local traditional groups. Today’s post is for them. Details about the show can be found on our events page here, and on Facebook here.

Crows lent their latin name to the constellation Corvus, a quadrilateral pattern seen in the southern hemisphere near Virgo and Hyrda. Its largest star is Algorab, which is the Arabic word for crow. Writing in The Fixed Stars and Constellations in 1923, Vivian Robson characterizes the star by its “destructiveness, malevolence, fiendishness, repulsiveness and lying.”

Crows have been with us since the dawn of history — Ovid claimed it was Apollo’s ire which made their feathers black, and aboriginals in Australia believed the birds performed the promethean task of the theft of fire itself. Crows are, in some ways, second to dogs as our first friends — although they remain distant relatives. Recent studies have proven crows can recognize and recall individual human faces. Its possible they can report to others the worst of us — crows may be one of the very few non-human animals capable of displacement, meaning they can communicate about things that are happening in a different spatial or temporal place than their current location. Crows can tell stories.

Creatures in the corvus genus has one of the highest measurements of relative brain size in the world (this is called the encephalization quotient, in case you’re wondering). In fact, we’re finding crows to be a smarter and smarter the more we study them, even capable of understanding causality, as demonstrated in this experiment.

While it was once believed crows lived for centuries, their actual lifespan is about twenty years — a captive crow named Tata was believed to be fifty-nine when he died in 2006, as reported in the Washington Post. Most crows are monogamous, and offspring remain with a breeding pair for several years to help protect the nest from raccoons, snakes and cats. Their communal roosts, commonly called a murder, can include as many as tens of thousands of birds. The poor residents of Danville, Illinois are believed to be outnumbered 4-to-1 by crows.

Crows are naturally curious and playful, clear signs of their intelligence. They will often toy with inedible objects such as litter, but they do not steal and collect shiny objects as is sometimes said. They would best be described as scattered hoarders, since they don’t keep their treasures in a single location such as a nest.

Inventor Joshua Klein presented a vending machine for crows at a technology conference in 2008. The crows would learn to pick up garbage and receive a treat in exchange. The indigenous crows on the island of New Calendonia create their own tools for extracting insects. Hooded crows in Israel have learned to use bread crumbs as fishing bait. Farmers have crafted a variety of traps to test the intelligence of crows for centuries, creating the anecdote of the counting crow. No account suggests any corvus could count as high as seven, however, as in the last song on the Counting Crows’ first album, August and Everything After.

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“A Murder of One”

The band likely takes its name not from crows who count, but from a once-familiar nursery rhyme. One could count crows to receive a premonition of the future. Here is one variation, which you’ll recognize reflected in the song.

One for sorrow, two for mirth,
Three for a wedding, four for a birth,
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret not to be told.
Eight for heaven, nine for hell,
And ten for the devil’s own self.

Given the crow’s role in human mythology and superstition, it’s not surprising they appear frequently in our music. For instance, one of the strangest songs on the early Dylan albums is “Black Crow Blues,” notably for being the first on which he accompanied himself on the piano.

another side of bob dylan

 

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“Black Crow Blues” by Bob Dylan

Its surprising how the song presages Dylan’s sound from the late sixties and early seventies, where his jaunty and idiosyncratic piano style steps to the fore. That an alternate version more in the style of the other songs on Another Side of Bob Dylan was left on the cutting room floor suggests he was already interested in expanding the range of folk music as early as his second album.

crowFans of local music surely remember Crow, the bluesy rock band from the late 60s whose early hit “Evil Woman” was covered by Black Sabbath. Crow has broken up and reunited several times over the years. The cover of their second LP, Crow by Crow, depicts a gigantic crow as a member of the band.

A “black bird” plays a lead role in the second song on Brian Laidlaw’s extraordinary concept album about Bonnie and Clyde, Amoratorium. A crow is seen on the cover of the album.

amoratorium

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“Know my Rider” by Brian Laidlaw

The crows in Walt Disney’s Dumbo were endowed with wit and insight, and while it has been suggested by some that their appearance is representative of endemic racism in classic Disney cartoons, it should be noted they are the only characters besides Timothy the Mouse who treat Dumbo with kindness. The tragic singer Cliff Edwards performed the lead on their song, “When I See an Elephant Fly.”

This last song is from Crow Call, who inspired this little expedition into the spooky awesomeness of our black feathered friends.

10407062_566209380146176_5038564613021826923_nThey’ve described this song from their self-titled debut disc as being “about crows as messengers, being aware of their presence as harbingers in our lives and listening to what they have to tell us.” We chose Crow Call as one of our favorite local albums of 2014, but our previous posts about the disc have hardly hit on its eerie darkness. “They Know” is a fine example of how their music feels like Black Sabbath if filtered through Charlie Parr.

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“They Know” by Crow Call

Wednesday night’s show here at Hymie’s starts at 7pm and features The Sterling Roots, Crow Call, and Karima Walker from Tuscon AZ. While shows at Hymie’s are usually free, we are asking for a $5 donation since there is a touring artist on the bill.

horizon singers

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“Hey Good Lookin'” performed by the Horizon Singers

It’s George Benson’s birthday and we thought it would be fun to celebrate with some of our favorite songs from his albums. You don’t need a special occasion to enjoy his music, however — pretty much any day is the right day for some George Benson jams.

benson mcduf

George Benson cut his first single at ten years old, but fell into his familiar style a few years later working for organist Brother Jack McDuff, who served as a mentor to the promising guitarist. His first LP as a leader, The New Boss Guitar of George Benson, was recorded for Prestige Records with McDuff’s band in 1964, and most of the songs were originals he’d written. As a frequent side-man on McDuff’s records Benson’s bold, downstroke-driven style shone, but he also showed the sensitivity of Wes Montgomery’s more subtle, layered approach.

From this 70s Prestige two-fer, which includes Benson’s debut as well as McDuff’s Hot Barbeque, we picked this lovely version of the standard “Easy Living” because it shows how much Montgomery influenced Benson’s style from the beginning.

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“Easy Living”

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With a quartet featuring organist Lonnie Smith, Benson made his heaviest bop recordings in the mid-sixties for Columbia. In addition to his two awesome albums, Its Uptown and The George Benson Cookbook, the group recorded Finger Lickin’ Good with Smith as the leader, and Melvin Sparks as a second guitarist. Ronnie Cuber plays a baritone sax with the group, giving them a grittier, swampier feel than other organ/guitar combos which usually employed a tenor.

Columbia capitalized on the success of Benson’s soul jazz hits in the seventies by collecting tracks from these albums, plus some unissued material, on Benson’s Burner in 1976. Its hard to say what fans of his mellow style made of these tracks, but we think of his bop recordings as some of his very best. “The Cooker” was the opening tune on The George Benson Cookbook.

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“The Cooker”

benson weep willow

Lonnie Smith took the band to record for Blue Note, replacing Benson with Larry McGhee, ending their successful five year collaboration and also effectively ending Benson’s bop phase. During those years he had continued to work with Jack McDuff, and also appeared on albums by Lou Donaldson, Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan.

From the late 60s on, his own albums started trending towards the style of Wes Montgomery, and away from contemporaries like Grant Green and Melvin Sparks. Its a shame his own quartet was not recorded more by Columbia, because the handful of records they did make are fantastic.

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“Benson’s Rider”

miles in the sky

While at Columbia Benson also made an appearance on Miles Davis’ transitional album, Miles in the Sky. So far as we can recall, his was the first appearance of an electric guitarist on one of Miles’ Columbia albums, presaging the fusion phase which began in earnest with In a Silent Way (with Brit John MacLaughlin playing guitar) and providing a bridge of sorts between Benson’s soulful Columbia quartet and his own fusion-leaning albums for CTI to follow. Benson’s solo, starting shortly after the 7:00 mark, is surprisingly restrained compared to either.

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“Paraphernalia”

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Benson opened his first album for Creed Taylor’s CTI label with a Miles Davis tune (“So What”) but by the time he hit his stride there the music was far removed from the heavy fusion vamps Davis was recording at the same time. Still, Benson’s bandmates over the half-dozen albums he made for the label included, at times, three members of Davis’ second great quintet, in addition to soul jazz mainstays like Phil Upchurch, Joe Farrell and the Brecker brothers. His driven take on Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” has always been a favorite of ours.

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“Take Five”

DSC07247Few things had more tragic consequences in the world of jazz than the first time Nat ‘King’ Cole began singing pop standards over sugary string arrangements — the records sold so quickly that at most sessions he stopped playing the piano, leaving the world without one of the finest soloists of a generation.

The same could be said of George Benson’s string of hit singles for Warner Brothers starting with 1977’s “This Masquerade” (below). His albums became increasingly filled with smoldering rhythm and blues numbers, and his solos fewer and further between. He had, in fact, crooned a couple tunes several years earlier on his lush recreation of the Beatles’ Abbey Road. On “Golden Slumbers” he doesn’t even play the guitar he’s seen carrying across the street.

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“Golden Slumbers”

songs in the key

Another pre-Breezin’ hint at Benson’s prodigious vocal prowess was an appearance on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. where he sings some backup as well as playing guitar. His supporting role is pretty minimal, overshadowed by another guest, flautist Bobbi Humphrey — still, any appearance on one of the most revered records of all time is pretty awesome. Stevie’s masterpiece beat out Benson’s Breezin’ for the album of the year Grammy, but Benson’s single “This Masquerade” won record of the year. “Another Star” was released as a single but it didn’t sell as well as “Sir Duke” and “I Wish,” both of which topped the charts.

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“Another Star”

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Breezin’ set a new standard for crossover jazz, cultivating previously unrealized commercial potential. Record collectors know this as one of the most ubiquitous seventies jazz albums, taking for granted the likelihood there’s already a copy somewhere on our shelves. Although he only sang on one song, a cover of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,” its success as a single became the turning point in Benson’s career. Although this was his first album for Warner Brothers, it followed the form of his CTI Records and even included some artists regularly heard on his albums there, like Phil Upchurch as keyboardist Ronnie Foster, whose solos provide some of the album’s best moments.

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“This Masquerade”

DSC07248Erotic Moods is the orphan of the George Benson catalog, having hardly been released and even less enthusiastically acknowledged. At its raunchiest the record’s loosest jams are downright dirty, especially the enthusiastic sex sounds throughout “Sweet Taste of Love” — one of two tracks featuring the sultry sounds of Willis “Gator” Jackson’s sax. This dancefloor gem has a hot lead vocal by Ann Winley, whose husband Paul ran the label which ran the range from doo wop to pioneering hip hop. Winley also produced a sweet soul jazz album by Willie “Gator” Jackson on which Benson played some of his most R&B styled guitar. Wikipedia’s Benson discography specifically omits this one, but Erotic Moods is essential Benson.

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“Smoking Cheeba Cheeba”

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The live album Weekend in LA features Benson’s regular backing group: Phil Upchurch, Ronnie Foster, Jorge Dalto, Stanley Banks and the double drumming team of Harvey Mason and Ralph MacDonald. Its four sides recorded at the Roxy in 1977 are split pretty evenly between instrumentals and vocal numbers, and the band is in great form — the set also introduces “On Broadway,” the Drifters tune which Benson would sort of adopt as a signature tune. Our favorite track is tribute to Wes Montgomery.

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“I Remember Wes”

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Give me the Night first appeared here on the Hymie’s blog when we posted our proposal for a biopic about producer Quincy Jones, and its also a regular in our “make-out music” section. This is probably Benson’s most pop-oriented album. His take on James Moody’s “Moody’s Mood,” on which he’s joined by singer Patti Austin, is particularly silly. Still, there’s something irresistibly enjoyable about this album.

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“Give me the Night”

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This two volume bootleg of Benson and a new band is a mellow affair compared to Weekend in LA. Most tunes are stretched to ten minutes or more, and the solos are subdued and thoughtful. Benson is certainly a fan of Miles Davis’ modal masterpiece Kind of Blue (who isn’t?), having recorded several of its songs. This long version of “All Blues” includes some great interplay between the quartet and a memorable, extended solo by Benson. Drummer Al Harewood, who passed away around this time last year, was a frequent side-man for Blue Note in the sixties. Here he comps Benson’s solo with the same flair he showed on albums by Stanley Turrentine and guitarist Grant Green.

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“All Blues”

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Benson sang “The Greatest Love of All” for the 1977 bio-pic The Greatest, in which Muhammad Ali played himself — lyricist Linda Creed wrote the song as she suffered through the early stages of breast cancer. When Creed passed at the tragically young age of thirty-seven, her song was a #1 hit as re-recorded by Whitney Houston. Another song Benson sang on the soundtrack, “I Always Knew I Had it in Me,” also had an inspiring message. It seems like the perfect place to end our tribute today.

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“I Always Knew I had it in Me”

starting a new lifeWe never saw any reason to own a copy of Tupelo Honey because our favorite song was on the flip side of this 45. “Starting a New Life” is in fact our all-time favorite Van Morrison songs, barely edging out “Dweller on the Threshold,” but we never listen to it. That’s because when someone very important to us passed away, we found a copy of Tupelo Honey in his truck, along with Don Williams’ Greatest Hits Volume II.

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“Starting a New Life”

Yeah, this is an ironic song to listen to in remembrance, but sometimes those are the best songs because they remind you to be thankful for the time you’re blessed to have, and to not squander a single second of it. If we took anything from the tragedy which fell upon us all those years ago, it was to stop wasting our time and pursue our dreams.

Its time to start clearing out the garden, after all, and there’s just about nothing in this world that feels as good as getting your hands back into the soil when springtime finally arrives. One year our crocus bloomed this very weekend, but it’s barely peeking up this morning — still he’s down there, along with all our other familiar friends under the ground, no doubt as eager as us to greet the sunshine of a new season.

We don’t mean to play on words, but growing a garden really keeps you grounded. It also keeps you busy, because there’s always going to be work to do. Talk about tragically optimistic songs, one of John Lennon’s most famous lines comes from his last album: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Whether you pay attention to it or not your garden will keep growing, so you’d better keep on top of those weeds.

We’ve got some friends expecting, including a former Hymie’s employee. We remember how exciting the anticipation is, but our little ones aren’t so little anymore. One day you wake up and its time, and in a flash years go by and you’re watching them get on the school bus. At the same time, another day the phone’s gonna ring and you’ll get the worst news of your life. Blind Willie McTell was right, “you just as well better get ready.”

There won’t be a post tomorrow morning, because we’ll be too busy clearing out the leaves and trash. On Monday we’ll be announcing the fourteen bands playing our fifth annual Record Store Day block party, which we think is going to be the best yet. There’s not a person on that bill we wouldn’t consider a friend, and not an act we wouldn’t consider one of the very best in town. We’ll also be collaborating with our new neighbors, Peppers & Fries, this year, along with all the other familiar East Lake businesses who have supported the event through the years. We hope you’ll tune in (or click in or whatever) and we especially hope you’ll join us again on April 18th to eat, drink and be merry.

A few weeks ago we posted “Jitterbug Waltz,” one of our favorite Fats Waller melodies, and wrote about his role introducing the Hammond organ to jazz. He was an accomplished keyboardist, comfortable at the Hammond, the piano, and the pipe organ as well. He formed the bridge between ragtime and stride piano and modern jazz.

fats waller

what did i doAlong with “Jitterbug Waltz,” Waller composed many jazz standards, the most well-known of which are “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”He and his longtime collaborator Andy Razaf also wrote “What Did I Do to be so Black and Blue?” for the Broadway show Hot Chocolates, which is distinguished as an early protest song reflecting on race relations in America. It was a hit for Ethel Waters and for Louis Armstrong (whose recording you’ll hear below), and was prominently featured in the prologue of Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible Man. “At first I was afraid,” begins Ellison’s unnamed narrator,

this familiar music had demanded action, the kind of which I was incapable, and yet had I lingered there beneath the surface I might have attempted to ask. Nevertheless, now I know that few really listen to the music.

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“What Did I Do to be so Black and Blue?”

Fats Wallers’ final recording session in 1943 featured a white musician, trumpeter Don Hirleman, at a time when integrated groups were rare. He died of pneumonia while traveling that December, and was remembered by more than 4,000 fans at his funeral in Harlem. It was said at the time “he always played to a packed house.”

As extraordinarily talented as Waller was as a composer and performer, he was also a consummate entertainer, known for his jokes and interjections during performances. The many sides he recorded as a singer capture his humor. These two tunes are from a single August 1934 session, included on the Bluebird collection you see up above. We are especially fond of the second one.

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“Then I’ll be Tired of You”

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“Don’t Let it Bother You”

The reason we chose to write a little about Fats Waller again today is that the Southside Aces will be performing his music, with special guest Mike Polad on the keyboard, tonight at the Minneapolis Eagles Club #34. It’s part of their ongoing second Thursday residency there, which we featured when they released their disc of the same name earlier this year. The music starts at 8pm (details, if you’re all about Facebook, here) and we highly encourage fans of classic jazz to check it out.

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