Music reviews for 1934 in Music.
1. Earl Hines’ Orchestra: “Harlem Lament” (10/10)
This is relatively unique (at least among his music I’ve heard so far) in that it not only features a solo piano intro but also features a prominent piano part throughout, as if it was conceived as a piano solo and then the orchestration and clarinet solo were added on top. Perhaps Hines’ definitive band performance.
2. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra: “Hotter than ‘ell” (10/10)
“Hotter than ‘Ell” also swings but it’s significantly ‘hotter’ (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself – I think that was the intent, though). It’s an excellent example of a band playing fast and sophisticated at the same time.
3. Memphis Minnie: “Squat it” (9/10)
Though we expect dirtiness in blues songs and Minnie has her fair share of songs with sexual innuendo, this is among the dirtiest I’ve heard and it’s pretty funny. The vocal is strong, as usual, and the playing is clearer than on a number of her 30s recordings. Good stuff.
4. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra: “Big John’s Special” (9/10)
“Big John’s Special” is as classic a swing tune as it gets – it would almost be cliche if this weren’t 1934.
5. Earl Hines ‘ Orchestra: “Ridin’ a Riff” (9/10)
“Ridin’ a Riff” is much more mature swing. At this point the style had crystalized and the emphasis is much more on the different elements of the group playing off each other. That cornet or trumpet solo is pretty awesome.
6. Earl Hines’ Orchestra: “Cavernism” (9/10)
Now this is swing. Early swing, but great stuff, still containing the energy of early jazz.
7. Earl Hines’ Orchestra: “Rosetta” (8/10)
It’s a ballad with a prominent Hines solo the middle (in contrast to some of his other group recordings). Hines’ solo is really out there compared to some of his other large group recordings.
8. Gustav Holst: “Scherzo” (8/10)
The scherzo from an unfinished symphony is the kind of thing I like. Relatively conservative for the era, but full of energy and interesting little features. I find the charge that his music is “cold” to be a little odd when I hear something this lively.
9. Alexander Glazunov: Concerto for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra in E-flat major, op. 109 (7/10)
The saxophone concerto is one of those kind of cool / kind of hilarious attempts by a non-American composer to mix jazz influences into European art music. But otherwise it is a pretty traditional piece, and I want to like it a lot more than I do. It’s certainly far less obviously jazzy than many of the other efforts in this vein, and it would be nice if the whole thing let loose a little more, given that it was written in the ’30s.