Document Records - Vintage Blues and Jazz

"Document 5000 Series "

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Charley Jordan Vol 1 1930 - 1931

Charley Jordan, vocal, guitar   
St. Louis Bessie (Bessie Mae Smith), vocal with Charley Jordan, guitar.
 
With contributions by Peetie Wheatstraw, piano.
 
Genres: St Louis Blues, Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar.
 
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.  

From this albums booklet notes:

Charlie Jordan is one of the many major figures in the blues of whom we know surprisingly little. He was born in Arkansas, around 1890, and is reported to have led a hobo's life after service in the US Army during World War I. By 1925, he was living in St. Louis, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. He was already a guitarist by this time, and it's a good bet that his wanderings had taken him to Memphis and the Mississippi Delta, for the guitar styles of the city and the repertoire of the Delta are both evident at his first recording session. He played in a clean, confident three-finger style that owed a good deal to ragtime, but more to his own extraordinary sense of rhythm. The steady pulse that underlies his playing and singing is often a long way removed from the accenting of the guitar part; what Bernard Klatzko calls "inexact timing (that is exact)". Continued...




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Charley Jordan Vol 2 1931 - 1934

Charley Jordan, vocal, guitar.
 
With contributions by Peetie Wheatstraw, piano.
 
Genres: St Louis Blues, Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar.
 
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.
 
Between June 1930 and March 1931, Charley Jordan had recorded for Vocalion, but in September 1931 he cut four titles for Victor, accompanied, as had become the norm, by his friend Peetie Wheatstraw on piano. These were fine performances, but the Depression was biting hard; sometime in 1933, probably around March, Victor noted the sales figures for their 23000 series releases. Jordan was in exceptional form on guitar, as may be heard on all his titles at this two day session, but particularly perhaps on Honey Sucker Blues and Hell Bound Boy Blues, which also features one of Peetie Wheatstraw's finest accompaniments. If he was outstanding accompanying himself, however, Jordan was truly sensational in guitar duet with "Hi" Henry Brown, whose nickname was presumably adopted to distinguish him from the celebrated St. Louis piano player whose name he shared. Jordan is particularly inspired on Titanic Blues; to his usual rhythmic freedom, even more remarkable than when he was accompanying himself, he adds a near three octave playing range, and extremely forceful picking. Continued...



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Charley Jordan Vol 3 1935 - 1937

Charley Jordan: vocal, guitar.

With contributions by; Peetie Wheatstraw, piano; Verdi Lee, vocal; Charlie Manson, guitar; Leroy Henderson, vocal; Casey Bill Weldon, slide guitar.

Genres: Country Blues, St Louis Blues, Country Blues Guitar. Blues Piano.

Informative notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.

Charley Jordan was not the strongest of blues singers but his voice is not off-putting, in fact it has quite an unusual characteristic which one easily brings to mind when one returns to any of his records. The strengths of his recordings are in his guitar playing and his song writing. Steffan Grossman wrote; "The often whimsical songs recorded belie the violent world that he apparently lived". He was shot in 1928 during his bootlegging activities leaving him with a bullet lodged in his spine and having to use crutches.

There's a wry, gentle humour in Jordan's songs, a child-like delight in playing with words and imagery. His melodies, too, often evince a naive charm. Jordan's guitar picking masterfully combines an airy delicacy with punchy dynamics he may have gathered from such Mississippians as Big Joe Williams. Paul Oliver has praised Jordan's "uncorrupted country style of blues guitar with an effortless, light technique". Chris Smith observes in Jordan "an extraordinary sense of rhythm. The steady pulse that underlies his playing and singing is often a long way removed from the accenting of the guitar part."




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Great Blues Harp Players 1927 - 1936

Various.

Genres: Country Blues, Blues harmonica.

Informative booklet notes by Howard Rye.
Detailed discography.

Review by Scott Yanow:

Although one may think of the blues harp beginning with Little Walter, the first Sonny Boy Williamson, or Sonny Terry, a variety of harmonica players did record in the '20s. Some of their recordings were technical displays that featured them imitating everything from animals to trains, while other players were more blues-oriented. This valuable CD has two selections from the guitar-harmonica team of William Francis and Richard Sowell; Ollis Martin's Police and High Sheriff Come Ridin' Down; six pieces by Eli Watson (including El Watson's Fox Chase); two cuts apiece by Palmer McAbee, Ellis Williams, Alfred Lewis, and the team of Smith & Harper (which is the only music on this CD recorded after 1930); plus four songs/displays from Blues Birdhead (including Get up off That Jazzophone) and George "Bullet" Williams (highlighted by Frisco Leaving Birmingham and The Escaped Convict). Fascinating music.




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Guitar Evangelists 1928 - 1951

Various artists.

Genres; Guitar Evangelists, Gospel, Religious, Bottleneck Slide Guitar.

Informative booklet notes by Ken Romanowski.

Includes detailed discography.

Willie Mae Williams accompanies herself with adept and precise slide guitar on Don't Want To Go There and Where The Sun Never Goes Down, in the meantime cleaving to older principles. As does Brother Willie Eason, his gruff voice lending emotion to There'll Be No Grumblers There and I Want To Live (So God Can Use Me), his slide completing some of the vocal lines. Sister Elizabeth Phillips is impressively accompanied by Estis King's acoustic guitar, her music indeed 'A Little Old-Fashioned' but, a quarter century later, keeping faith with Benny Paris. Benny and Pauline Parrish were two blind religious singers originally from Woodcliff. It is likely that Blind Willie McTell was responsible for their session as he also recorded for Victor at that time and was somewhat of a pivotal figure in the area. Continued...




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Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol 1 1928 - 1932

Featuring:
 
Charles Avery
Freddie "Red" Nicholson
"Jabo" Williams
 
Genres: Boogie-Woogie Piano, Blues Piano.
 
Informative booklet notes by Mike Rowe.
Detailed discography.

From this album's booklet notes:

More is known about Pine Top Smith than the rest of the pianists here put together, so it’s ironic there should have been so many conflicting accounts of his life and death. According to Sarah Horton whom he married in 1924 it was in Pittsburgh he first started playing Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie. Cow Cow Davenport claimed to have originated the term, “boogie woogie”, when he met Pine Top in a joint in Pittsburgh’s Sachem Alley and told him, “You sure have got a mean boogie woogie”. Davenport, acting as talent scout, recommended Pine Top to J. Mayo Williams of Brunswick/Vocalion records and Smith moved to Chicago in the summer of 1928. Possibly Williams wasn’t sure how best to present his new artist - the first unissued sessions had him accompanied by jug and kazoo and teamed in a vocal duet but his first issued sides were two impeccable watershed performances. This was the first time “boogie woogie” appeared on record and seems to be a dance or step. Certainly the limpid grace of Pine Top’s rolling bass and the suspense of the breaks makes it eminently danceable. On his quick return to the studio another six sides mainly focussed on his vaudeville repertoire - apart from the precise Jump Steady while I’m Sober Now combined both sides of his background in the serio-comic dialogue and musical mixture of Blues and “sentimental stuff”. One more recording, the unissued DRIVING WHEEL BLUES, and Pine Top was gone; a stray bullet in a dance-hall brawl ended his life just two days later, 15 March 1929. Pine Top’s seminal recordings ushered in a very brief but exciting Golden Age of Blues piano recordings of mostly new artists. Continued...




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Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol 2 1928 - 1930

Various artists

Genres: Boogie Woogie Piano, Barrelhouse Piano, Blues Piano.
 
Informative booklet notes by Mike Rowe.
Detailed discography.
 
As with the Document Records CD St. Louis Barrelhouse Piano (DOCD-5104) very little is known of the pianists on this CD. Only Romeo Nelson, through two brief interviews, emerges from the shadows. He recorded with Tampa Red in 1929, played with Pine Top Smith and Clarence Lofton. Gettin' Dirty was a marvellous close cousin to the Dozens and another obvious rent-party piece. Dyin' Rider Blues, by contrast, was a macabre blues and 1129, a jaunty version, oddly, of The Midnight Special. Rudy Foster is known only through the few tracks here, which are heavy, inventive and typical of the boogies of the northern triangle of Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis. Piano Kid Edward's tracks provide a contrast with his explosion of ragtime and stride piano.



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St Louis Barrelhouse Piano 1929 - 1934

Various artists
 
Genre: St Louis Blues, Barrelhouse Piano, Blues Piano.
 
Informative Notes by Mike Rowe.
Detailed discography.
 
By the 20's St Louis's black areas must have seemed like one huge barrelhouse of country jukes as the migrants carried on their Southern traditions odd concession to the new urban environment. Pianos, a rarity in the country were anything but in town and St Louis and its twin, the wide-open East St Louis, were piano towns (possibly a legacy of the mid-Western ragtime).
 
When, in 1929, Sam Wolff of Wolff's Record Shop, 1319 Biddle, despatched Henry Townsend and pianist Sylvester Palmer to Chicago to record for Columbia and Smoky Harrison, Bessie Mae Smith and Wesley Wallace to Paramount the stage was set for a discographical mystery which would run and run. Continued...

 




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Blind Roosevelt Graves 1929 - 1936

Blind Roosevelt Graves, vocal, guitar.
Uaroy Graves, vocal, tambourine.
Mississippi Jook Band: Roosevelt Graves, guitar; Cooney Vaughn, piano; Uaroy Graves, tambourine.

Genres: Country Blues, Country gospel, Country blues guitar/

Informative booklet notes by Ken Romanowski.
Detailed discography.

From this album's booklet notes:
Ishman Bracey and informant Chester House asserted that Graves was from South Central Mississippi and played on the streets and in the local juke joints in various towns throughout that area. House, who had performed with Graves in the 1920s, specifically named Rose Hill as the home of the blind guitarist. Graves moved to Gulfport, Mississippi after World War II where he reputedly died in the 1960s. Blues historian Paul Oliver speculates that Roosevelt may have been born in the I890s as Uaroy appears to have been born around 1900. The elder Graves, who was totally blind, usually played a twelve-string guitar and took most of the lead vocals, while his younger brother, who was blind in one eye, harmonized and played tambourine.

The music they recorded offers us an opportunity to glimpse the rough sound of a small black country band as it would have performed in the juke joints of Mississippi in the period between the World Wars. Graves and his brother were seemingly comfortable with a number of styles (a flexibility natural enough for street musicians), particularly the religious numbers which resonate with an authentic fervor and musical vitality. In all probability they were songsters with a strong religious bent who were requested at their Paramount session to perform popular blues and boogie items. Continued...




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Sinners & Saints 1926 - 1931

Various artsts.

Informative booklet notes by Paul Oliver.
Detailed discography.

Review by Burgin Mathews:

Document’s Sinners and Saints (1926-1931) presents the complete recorded works of nine artists and groups, whose combined repertoires and performance styles serve as a brief but fascinating lesson in the history of black music, expanding common conceptions of the musical continuum that created the blues. The CD presents minstrel and medicine show material, religious songs, two work songs, a few so-called “blues,” and a bad man blues ballad, exhibiting a wide scope of black musical traditions dating back to the 19th century and still in circulation during the 1920s and ’30s. The performers not only represent a variety of genres, but demonstrate highly individualized styles that reflect their own personal aesthetics as much as any traditional form. The tones of their offerings range from the bizarre and the mirthful to the plaintive and deeply spiritual; the total effect of the album is hilarious, dark, and genuinely moving. Continued...




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Ramblin' Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers 1928 - 1932

Various artists.

Genres: Texas blues, Country blues, Country blues guitar, Bottleneck-slide guitar

Informative booklet notes by Bob Groom.
Detailed discography.

Review by Arwul Arwulf:

Guitarist Willard “Ramblin’” Thomas was born in Logansport, LA in 1902. In 1945, he was struck down by tuberculosis while in Memphis, TN, leaving behind about 18 recordings, 16 of which have been reissued on one disc by Document along with assorted tidbits by four other bluesmen, most of whom recorded in Dallas during the late ’20s.

Whereas Willard’s timing, texture, and technique suggest the influence of Lonnie Johnson and Tampa Red, his work is also stylistically linked with that of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Texas Alexander, Ed Bell, Furry Lewis, Funny Paper Smith, and Little Hat Jones — all substantial Southern blues musicians. Continued...




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Charlie Spand 1929 - 1931

Charlie Spand, vocal, piano.

With contributions by Blind Blake, guitar and possibly Josh White, guitar.

Genres: Country blues, blues piano.

Informative booklet notes by Howard Rye.
Detailed discography.

Charlie Spand's recordings have long been recognized by both blues and jazz enthusiasts as a "special vintage" of African-American music. The combination of a blues poet, notable for his carefully thought-out lyrics, with inspired piano playing is indeed irresistible, yet little has been written about him apart from a brief musical study by Bob Hall and Richard Noblett in Blues Unlimited. Continued...




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