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review by Scott Yanow: Berritt Brunies & His Friars Inn Orchestra


While the history of early jazz on record (1917-25) is often summed up by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra and finally Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five, there were many other worthy groups that were documented during the era. Although recorded acoustically (electric recording did not take over until 1926-27), the joy and creativity of early jazz can still communicate to today’s listeners.
This two-CD set has 48 recordings from the 1923-26 period. It can easily be divided into three parts. The first 18 selections feature groups with overlapping personnel: The Original Memphis Melody Boys, the Chicago Blues Dance Orchestra, Art Kahn’s Orchestra and the Midway Dance Orchestra. While there are no big names in these bands from 1923 (pianist Elmer Schoebel, trombonist Santo Pecora, bassist Steve Brown who is heard on tuba, and trumpeter Murphy Steinberg come the closest), the music is excellent for the time period and a little reminiscent of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings.
The 16 numbers by cornetist Merritt Brunies’ very good band from 1924-26 feature trombonist Harry Brunies and clarinetist Volly de Faut on such numbers as “Up Jumped The Devil,” “Angry,” “Clarinet Marmalade” and “Sugar Foot Stomp.” Finally there are the 13 selections by the Bucktown Five (a quintet with cornetist Muggsy Spanier and Volly De Faut from 1924) and two selections by the similar Stomp Six in 1925. These were Spanier’s first recordings.
The recording quality is as good as these performances have ever had, the extensive liner notes by Charlie Crump are perfect for the set and this generous reissue is a must for collectors of 1920s jazz.
Scott Yanow

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