1928 in Music

Music reviews for music I’ve listened to from 1928.

1. Earl Hines: “A Monday Date” (10/10)

It’s a track like this that really shows off both Hines’ abilities to play both rhythm and lead and his move away from ragtime style piano: it’s infinitely more complex, not just in his lines but in the breakdowns / tempo changes. Brilliant. Just incredible.

2. Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five: “Fireworks (10/10)

This is an absolutely classic Armstrong Hot Five. On a track like this you can hear why Hines was known as “Fatha” (when he gets his solos).

3. Leos Janacek: From the House of the Dead (9/10)

This is my favourite of Janacek’s operas. To my ears it’s the weirdest (or nearly) and feels the most evocative of the story he’s trying to tell. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that I used to be obsessed with Doestoevsky.) It feels to me like it’s his most mature and his most unique, as well. But then I am just getting into his operas.

In any case, I like this the most of all of his pieces I’ve heard so far, I think. Great stuff.

4. Earl Hines: “Stowaway” (9/10)

This has Hines taking on more of a ballad. It’s not quite the mind-melter that “A Monday Date” is, but it still features excellent playing and the kind of improvisational runs we now associate with jazz piano. It’s easy to listen to this and understand the “Fatha” nickname.

5. Earl Hines: Chimes in Blues (9/10)

Hines’ approach to the intro of “Chimes in Blues” is unlike anything else I’ve heard in 1920s jazz. The rest of the song is a little more conventional – though still up to his strong standard and really great – but that intro is something else entirely. Also, you can really hear the “trumpet” in a couple of his chords here.

6. Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five: “Skip the Gutter” (9/10)

This is another classic Hot Five. The track is also a pretty classic slow blues, showing off a different side of the band.

7. Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five: Two Deuces (9/10)

This is a slow blues, even slower than “Skip the Gutter.” But it goes bonkers 2 and half minutes in, which is awesome.

8. Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines: Weather Bird (9/10)

This duet track gives you a much better idea of Hines’ contributions than his group performances from the same era. I know Hines moved the piano away from ragtime, but I am not enough of a student to tell you how. Suffice it to say: this isn’t ragtime piano here. A classic jazz duet.

9. George Gershwin: An American in Paris (8/10)

This feels a lot like the more “European” counterpart to Gershwin’s greatest piece of music and I must say I get some severe musical deja vu at times.

But, in the right hands, it’s still a very vibrant and very American piece of orchestral music that I find exciting and stirring whenever I listen to it.

If it is Rhapsody in Blue Part 2: Paris, it’s still a pretty good sequel. (I am a bit of a sucker for this kind of thing, though.)

10. Leos Janacek: String Quartet No.2 ‘Intimate Letters’ (8/10)

The second quartet gets off to a very different start than the first, almost haltingly beginning. It’s a pretty piece, but it’s definitely less forward-thinking than his first. I find it extremely nice to listen to but, for me, it’s not up in the top tier of quartets from the decade.

11. Omer Simeon: “Smoke-House Blues” (8/10)

Omer Simeon’s performance of Jelly Roll’s “Smoke-House Blues” is notable for having that classic dixieland clarinet sound. Hines’ solo is more elaborate than previously.

12. Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra: “Every Evening I Miss You” (8/10)

Noone’s group is less amazing than Armstrong’s but they still do a good job. This is classic “trad” jazz (or dixieland, if you prefer) that just lacks the world-changing virtuosity of Louis Armstrong. Hines’ solo is good.

13. Leos Janacek: “A Recollection” (8/10)

“A Recollection” is a vibrant little moody standalone piece. It’s good.

14. Arthur Honegger: Symphonic Movement No. 2 “Rugby” (7/10)

This is a vibrant piece of a music that flirts (just a little) with some more avant garde ideas, while remaining firmly in territory that’s safe and secure. It’s good stuff but it’s not especially illuminating.

15. Earl Hines: “Fifty-Seven Varieties” (7/10)

This is more conventional than many of his other 1928 recordings; much more ragtime-influenced and less indicative of his genius for innovation (though there are some decent improvisations and the break is great).