Saturday, March 29, 2014

The British Ace Records label has been reissuing numbers reissues from the catalogues and archives of Modern Records and its affiliates. Among its recent reissues is Beating the Petrillo Ban: The Late December 1947 Modern Sessions, a two-CD compilation with 49 selections that were recorded in late December 1947 as part of the label’s efforts to stock up on recordings in anticipation of the Recording Ban that the American Federation of Musicians were going to start at the start of the 1948 New Year. Like other labels, the Bihari Brothers' Modern Records engaged in a flurry of recording sessions. Between November and December, Modern recorded almost 130 masters by 16 different artists.

The two discs of Beating The Petrillo Ban contain 49 performances from between December 17 and New Year’s Eve of 1947, and while some of the recordings were issued, many were not at the time, nor have they been reissued in prior Ace releases. Tony Rounce, in his liner notes in the accompanying booklet, notes that 80% of the selections have previously never been issued previously (some are alternate takes of recordings that were issued on 78 or on various LP or CD reissues.

The opening performances are by an early vocal group, The Ebonaires. One of Modern’s biggest stars in its early days was Hadda Brookes and there are three sessions (12 selections) by her including instrumentals and vocals (There is a nice The Best Things In Life Are Free) in a Nat King Cole Trio vein with sophisticated piano and deft guitar accompaniment along with her vocals. This serves as a nice introduction to Brookes for whom Ace has several reissues of.

Drummer Al ‘Cake’ Wichard is heard on two sessions (12 selections) of jump blues that showcase shouters Duke Henderson and Jimmy Witherspoon who are both in fine form. Henderson’s “Gravels in My Pillow” and Witherspoon’s T.B. Blues are terrific examples of their music here along with a hot instrumental Cake Jumps. Spoon is also heard on a nice interpretation of That’s Your Little Red Wagon Ace also has a reissue of titles recorded under Wichard’s name with more Henderson and Witherspoon. There may be duplication of songs, but as noted, most of the selections here are unissued or alternate takes.

Another jump blues artist was Guitarist Gene Phillips heard with his Rhythm Aces as he tells his “Snuff Dipping Mama” to stop snuffing and button up her bottom lip. Its a nice band and Phillips clean single note picking is featured on “Gene’s Guitar Blues,” a reworking of “Floyd’s Guitar Blues.” Another session in this vein was with saxophonist Little Willie Jackson. Jackson was part of Joe Liggins Band and Modern signed Jackson who recorded with The Honeydrippers minus Liggins. The four numbers range from a jumping “Little Willie’s Boogie”, the sweet instrumental “Shasta” (similar in tone to Liggins’ “Tanya”) and the swinging sweet ballad “Baby.”

The Art Shackelford Sextette is led by a guitarist about which Tony Rounce advises little is known. His guitar leads the pleasant swing-based instrumentals that includes a rendition of the early New Orleans standard Jazz Me Blues and an untitled blues instrumental that Ace titled Beatin’ The Ban for its release here. Butch Stone was vocalist with Les Browns’ Band of Renown and heard on songs in the vein of Louis Jordan, Fats Waller and others including Baby Face and Waller’s Your Feets Too Big retitled as My Feets Too Big). As Rounce observes, Stone wisecracks and ad-libs his way on these performances in the zany manner of Harry ‘The Hipster’ Gibson.

The final performances on this compilation are the gospel songs from Ida Mae Littlejohn. Rounce observes her music was informed by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Arizona Dranes, "Who both employed the same animated vocal style." Her fervent renditions of Lonesome Road Blues (which you have to walk all alone’), He’ll Make The Way (I know the Lord will make a way”); and the rollicking Go Devil Go (with a vocal chorus) have piano and guitar as accompaniment.

Beating the Petrillo Ban: The Late December 1947 Modern Sessions is another outstanding Ace compilation from the Modern Archives. It is a varied collection of a diverse group of performers and music. Presentation is up to Ace’s usual high standards with Tony Rounce’s liner notes in the accompanying booklet providing background on the second Petrillo band and the recordings contained here which are presented here in the order of recording.

I purchased this. Here is a video of Hadda Brookes (or Brooks).

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