Document Records - Vintage Blues and Jazz

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Sonny Boy Williamson Vol 4 1941 - 1945

(4th April 1941 to 2nd July 1945)

Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson, vocal, harmonica.
Includes: Blind John Davis, piano; Big Bill Broonzy, guitar; Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass; Charlie McCoy, guitar; Washboard Sam, washboard; Eddie Boyd, piano; and others...

Informative booklet notes by Keith Briggs.
Detailed discography.

From the date of his first recordings in 1937 (Document DOCD-5055) until his death a decade later Sonny Boy Williamson was the undisputed king of the blues harmonica, at least in Chicago. Although there were plenty of other artists using the instrument only William 'Jazz' Gillum achieved anything like the popularity of the boy from Jackson, Tennessee and even Jazz could never claim the mastery that Sonny Boy underlined with every performance.

The period spanned on this Volume encompasses the bulk of World War Two and the infamous ban on recording brought about by James C. Petrillo. Petrillo became president of the Chicago local of the musician's union in 1922, and was president of the American Federation of Musicians from 1940 to 1958. Petrillo dominated the union with absolute authority. His most famous actions were banning all commercial recordings by union members from 1942 - 1944 and again in 1948 to pressure record companies to give better royalty deals to musicians. Although Sonny Boy never commented on this event he was very vocal about the conflict which he saw as a chance for the black American to both prove himself and improve his lot.  Continued...




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The Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets 1894 - 1928

Various artists.

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. Continued...




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Ragtime Blues Guitar 1927 - 1930

Various artists.
Genres: Ragtime guitar, Blues Guitar.
 
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.
 
Abridged from this CDs booklet notes.
The syncopated music that its black originators called “ragtime” was developed as a piano music in the last decade of the 19th Century, about the same time that the blues were also taking shape as a musical genre. Ragtime was a coming to terms between African cross-rhythms and the formalised syncopation of European art music and thus served equally as a vehicle for Scott Joplin's doomed ambition to be taken seriously and as a safely exotic craze for whites. Pop fashion moved on, to take up and dilute other black musical creations but ragtime entered the American folk consciousness, both white and black; in the Eastern states, particularly, it became a vital component in the sound of black blues, its lilting dance rhythms permeating, sometimes dominating, the ideas of the musicians of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Controll...



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Lonnie Johnson Vol 1 1925 - 1926

Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar. Violin, kazoo, harmonium.

 With contributions by James Johnson, violin, piano; James "Steady Roll" Johnson, vocal; John Arnold, piano; De Loise Searcy, piano; Victoria Spivey, vocal.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Blues Guitar.

Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.

Abridged from this CDs booklet notes.
In 1925, Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson won a talent contest sponsored by Okeh, and acquired a seven year contract with them as a result. Male singers playing guitar were about to make the breakthrough on race records; Blind Lemon Jefferson was beginning to record about the same time as Lonnie. Nevertheless, Johnson seems to have been anxious to show his versatility on these first dates; on this CD, he plays violin on more numbers than he does guitar, as well as switching to piano, banjo and harmonium. His contract with Okeh required him to work as a staff musician as well as a name artist, and he may have wanted to impress the company with his range. Controll...




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Lonnie Johnson Vol 2 1926 - 1927

Lonnie Johnson, vocal, harmonium, guitar.

Includes recordings by;
Helen Humes, vocal.
Joe Brown, vocal.
Raymond Boyd, vocal.

With contributions by; James Johnson, violin; John Erby, piano, De Loise Searcy, piano.

Genres; Blues, Blues Guitar, Female Blues vocal, New Orleans Blues.

Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.

From this CDs booklet notes;
Lonnie Johnson closed the eight title session of 13 August 1926 with two blues, one backed by the strange combination of his own harmonium and his brother James's violin, the other with just his own guitar. This marked the end of the bewildering display of instrument switching to be heard on Volume 1 (DOCD-5063); not for nearly three years was Lonnie to accompany himself on any instrument but guitar. As if to confirm this decision, he dropped into the studio the next day, Saturday, to cut the dazzling guitar solo To Do This, You Got To Know How, based on a lose 12 bar structure, but in practice owing little to the blues. 1927 found the two brothers back in the studio, both playing guitar; I Done Tole You, unissued at the time, hints at the revolutionary series of instrumental duets Lonnie was soon to cut with Eddie Lang.




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Lonnie Johnson Vol 3 1927 - 1928

Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar, violin.

Includes two titles by "Keghouse", vocal.
With contribtuions by: John Erby, piano; Jimmy Blythe, piano; Nap Hayes, guitar; Mathew Prater, mandolin.

Genres: Blues, Blues Guitar, Blues Violin, String Band, New Orleans Blues.

Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.

From this CDs booklet notes.
When Lonnie Johnson returned to Okeh’s New York studio in October 1927, he began with an account of the cyclone that had just struck St. Louis, where he had until recently been living. Elzadie Robinson recorded the same song that November, but Lonnie’s version was made a mere four days after the storm, which took 84 lives in five minutes, and caused immense damage. In a very different mood was Bedbug Blues Part 2, a sequel to the popular “Mean Old Bed Bug Blues” that he’d cut in August (see DOCD-5064). October and November found Johnson cutting more of his elegant instrumentals, and Okeh still reluctant to issue them, apparently preferring his imaginative stories in song like Life Saver Blues and Blue Ghost Blues (and, in Bitin’ Fleas Blues, yet another attempt to exploit the craze for blues about parasites). Continued...




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Lonnie Johnson Vol 4 1928 - 1929

Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar.

Includes:
Victoria Spivey, vocal.
Eddie Lang, guitar.
Spencer Williams, vocal.

With contributions by: Clarence Williams, piano; J.C. Johnson, piano; Joe “King Oliver”, cornet; Hoagy Carmichael, percussion, vocal.

Genres: Blues, Blues Guitar, Jazz Guitar, Country Blues.

From this CDs booklet notes.
In March 1928, Lonnie Johnson was in San Antonio, travelling with Okeh's mobile unit, and supplying accompaniment as needed. Part way through a stint backing Texas Alexander, he took time out to make the lovely ballad I'm So Tired Of Living All Alone, and a few days later he cut a four title session which included the first version of his famous attack on pimps, Crowing Rooster Blues; as so often with Lonnie, this song also includes some jaundiced opinions on women — note his advice on the dangers of buying them silk underwear in quantity. Broken Levee Blues is an unusual song of protest about the means by which the levees along the Mississippi were maintained, a system which a few years later was called "Mississippi Slavery in 1933" by Roy Wilkins of the NAACP.




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Lonnie Johnson Vol 5 1929 - 1930

Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar.

Includes duets with:
Eddie Lang, guitar.
Spencer Williams, vocal.
Victoria Spivey, vocal.
Clarence Williams, vocal.
With contributions by: J. Johnson, piano.

Genres: Blues, Blues Guitar, Jazz Guitar, Blues Piano.

Informative booklet notes written by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.

From this CDs booklet notes.
Through 1929, Lonnie Johnson continued to explore three musical fields on record. With Eddie Lang, he pushed at the frontiers of jazz guitar with the tone poem Bull Frog Moan, displays of technique such as Hot Fingers and the yearning, pop-structured Blue Room. At the same time, he was cranking out third and fourth parts to It Feels So Good with Spencer Williams, and in a more adult, but still hokumbased vein, duetting with Victoria Spivey on a composition that much later became a favourite of B. B. King's. Continued...




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Lonnie Johnson Vol 6 1930 - 1931

Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar.

Includes duets with:
Spencer Williams, vocal.
Clara Smith (as “Violet Green”), vocal.

With contributions by: James P. Johnson, piano; Clarence Williams, washboard, Alex Hill, piano.

Genres: Blues, Blues Guitar, Blues Duets, Blues Piano.

Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.

After the desperation of “Headed For Southland” (see DOCD-5067), the two part I Got The Best Jelly Roll In Town formed a light-hearted interlude in Lonnie Johnson’s 23rd January 1930 session. Featuring some impressive guitar, even by Johnson’s high standards, it’s the first tryout of a song which, as “Jelly Roll Baker”, he was to record again more than once. The singing on this version is remarkable, given the very slow tempo. For the last two titles of the session, Lonnie switched to piano, which he hadn’t played on disc since 1926; by 1930, he had worked out a favourite accompaniment, featuring a staccato, four-to-the-bar chordal bass part, over which are laid darting right hand figures that are clearly inspired by his guitar playing. Continued...




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Lonnie Johnson Vol 7 1931 - 1932

Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar, piano.

With contributions by Fred Longshaw piano.

Genres: Blues guitar.

Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Detailed discography.

From this CDs booklet notes.
By 1931, record sales were declining catastrophically under the impact of the Depression, but Okeh, who had the Mississippi Sheiks and Bo Carter, actually put out more race records in 1931 than they had in 1930. They also had Lonnie Johnson, whose proven sales potential encouraged them to bring him in for six recording sessions in 1931 and even for four in 1932. Continued...




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Bessie Tucker 1928 - 1929

Bessie Tucker, vocal.

With contributions by: K.D. (Mr. 49) Johnson, piano; Jesse "Babyface" Thomas, guitar.

Genres: Female vocal blues; Country blues, Texas blues.

Informative booklet notes by Roger Misiewicz.
Detailed discography.

Taken from this album's booklet notes.
Bessie Tucker first recorded in Memphis, Tennessee on August 28, 1928. From the sole surviving picture of her, she would appear to have been a young woman at the time, slim and fine featured. To all outward appearance, here is a genteel "high yellow" indeed.

However, once you hear her voice, immediately there is a marked difference from what you would have expected. A sombre, even somewhat dangerous aura comes immediately to the forefront. Moans, songs of travel, jail, fights with men, women and knowledge of the police are brought forward in a manner that could be artistry of the highest level, or otherwise mere brutal honesty - telling the stories she knew in song directly, personally, and immediately. If you listen with the latter assumptions, this initial session has a slice of life quality seldom equalled in the blues. Continued...




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Rev D C Rice 1928 - 1930

Rev D.C. Right, sermons with singing. Includes; Mr. Hunter, trombone, Louis Hooper,

Rev D.C. Right, sermons with singing.

Includes; Mr. Hunter, trombone, Louis Hooper, piano; Unknown, mandolin, triangle, trombone, stand-up bass, tambourine, trumpet, drums.

Genres: Preacher with Sermon and Singing accompanied by instruments. Gospel.

Informative booklet notes by Roger Misiewicz
Includes detailed discography.

From this album's booklet notes.
Zora Neale Hurston wrote “All Negro-made church music is dance-possible… The service is really drama with music.  And since music without motion is unnatural among Negroes there is always something that approaches dancing – in fact, IS dancing – in such a ceremony.  So the congregation is restored to its primitive altars under the new name of Christ.”

This description must describe to a tee the experience of being at a service held by the Reverend D.C. Rice. Recordings begin with words of teachings, short passages from the bible, warnings not to stray from the path of good and then.. the good reverend, his congregation, musicians and singers erupt into a joyful (it is tempting to use the word riotous) sound that brings together jazz and gospel, in a way that would be inspirational to the most ardent non-believer.  Continued...




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