In today’s post, it is my pleasure to present to you what I consider to be one of the finest examples of early Depression-era jazz ever recorded. Two quite different, but both superb pieces played by a band billed as “King Carter and his Royal Orchestra”, which was in actuality a pseudonym for the always excellent (and unfortunately oft overlooked) Mills Blue Rhythm Band.
Columbia 2504-D was recorded June 25, 1931 in New York City, and the orchestra includes Wardell Jones, Shelton Hemphill, and Ed Anderson on trumpets, Harry White and Henry Hicks on trombone, Charlie Holmes on clarinet and alto sax, Ted and Castor McCord on clarinet and tenor sax, Edgar Hayes on piano, Benny James on banjo, Hayes Alvis on string bass, and Willie Lynch on drums. George Morton provides the vocal on “Moanin'”.
For these two sides, I found that my usual equalization hindered the crispness of the music, especially the trumpets and cymbals, so these transfers are presented straight off the record, no equalization whatsoever. I hope you’ll find the increased crispness outweighs the slight crackle.
The first side of this disc introduces us to the sizzling hot, and also quite modernistic tune “Blue Rhythm”, a fitting title for this band, even if they’re not using their actual name.
Don’t let the worn label fool you, the flip side, “Moanin'”, is in just as good or better condition. This side seems to have some kind of “wobbly” effect to it, it’s not a flaw with this particular copy, but is in fact a fault in the engineering, and is present on all pressings. Maybe the needle on the cutting lathe was worn out when it was recorded.
For me, this side conjures up the images of sitting a smoke-filled Harlem jazz club in the years after the stock market crash, as swing begins to evolve from its primordial soup of hot jazz, taking it slow and easy as the fast paced world passes by outside the door.