FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Apollo Male Quartette|
|Dinwiddie Colored Quartet|
|Old South Quartette|
|Polk Miller and His Old South Quartette|
|The Standard Quartet|
Genre; Vocal quartets, spirituals and secular. Acapella, or with guitar or banjo accompaniment.
Informative booklet notes by Ray Funk.
Includes detailed discography.
Before blues, before jazz, the tradition of black male quartets, four-part harmony singing by African Americans was an established tradition of richness and complexity. Little recognised, almost all of the earliest aural artefacts of music by African Americans were quartet selections. All known examples of these extremely rare recordings are presented on this collection. Several of these are the only copies of a particular artefact and the listener must appreciate that these recordings stem from the dawn of recording technology and many are in poor shape such as the only known surviving cylinder by the Standard Quintette, Keep Movin. The Standard Quintette who recorded several cylinders for Columbia in 1894 were active on the concert stage at the time. This is the first Nineteenth Century recording of African American music that has been recovered and is an event despite the fact that what music remains is buried under a great deal of surface noise.
While the Standard Quintette recorded cylinders, the first records by a black quartet were the six one sided discs issued by Victor of the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet. Recorded in New York in two sessions in October 1902, these recordings of spirituals show a close harmony style.
Old South Quartette is a unique and important group of singers from Richmond, Va. who became well known while performing with white pharmacist and banjo player, Polk Miller. Miller had a show of "Stories, Sketches and Songs" of black life before the Civil War. He travelled widely with this show to excellent reviews. Mark Twain in response to a Carnegie Hall performance was lavish in his praise, referring to them as "about the only thing the country can furnish that is originally and uniquely American" and calling two of their selections, "musical earthquakes". After Miller's death the group continued to perform into the thirties as well as appearing on WRVA in Richmond. They recorded seven cylinders with Miller for Edison in 1909 and several records for QRS in 1928. Their varied repertoire goes well beyond spirituals to entertaining numbers like Pussy Cat Rag with its vocal imitations of cats and dogs and Oysters and Wine at 2 a.m..
The other groups represented here remain a mystery other than their listings in the discographies.