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David Seville, aka Rostom “Ross” Sipan Bagdasarian, was the son of Armenian immigrants who grew up in Fresno, California. He was an actor, musician, composer and voice actor who was very successful writing music scores for movies. He actually invented Alvin and the Chipmunks in the mid 1950s and was a pioneer in altering tape speeds to change singing and speaking voices for many of his projects!

“Armen’s Theme”, is a nice, bright slice of rare 78rpm lounge from 1956; featuring some killer organ and tastefully delayed guitar, this is what I would call a “snazzy number.”

 

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João Paulo Batista de Carvalho was a famous Brazilian singer and songwriter who had a life in music lasting almost 50 years. Born in 1901 in Rio Janeiro, he began his career in the 1930s by introducing the music of Umbanda, “a Brazilian folk religion combining elements of macumba, Roman Catholicism, and South American Indian practices”, also considered white magic, to live radio programs. He was arrested many times for this because Umbanda is a religion of possession and transfixation, and people were falling into trances listening to his groups on the airwaves in Rio! (needless to say he was a hit!)

This 1947 recording of  “You Went Away”, or “Foste Embora” in Portuguese, is a really snappy and catchy batucada, which is a samba essentially but with more a pronounced African percussion style and using a specific assortment of drums. Enjoy with a caipirinha and some space to move your feet…

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This version of Jelly Roll Morton’s classic “Wild Man Blues” by jazz clarinetist Johnny Dodds (1892-1940) and his Chicago Boys is my absolute favorite ever; its melody is a New Orleans blues if ever there was one, bub. He recorded this tune several times in the course of his career, all different takes with different approaches to the solos and the arrangements. This one is from a 1938 New York session and features the New Orleans legend towards the very end of his life still playing with so much energy and so much feeling for a song which was “a hit” for him and which he presumably played very often until his premature end. He died in 1940 leaving a tremendous legacy of music and recordings, and this is one of those songs which I will always love and never forget.

Thank you, Mr. Dodds, for this little heart & joy that you left the world.

Charlie Shavers (tpt) ; Johnny Dodds (clt) ; Lil Armstrong
(p) ; Teddy Bunn (g) ; John Kirby (bs) ; O’Neil Spencer (dr)

 

 

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A. Kostis was the pseudonym of Konstantinos Bezos (1905-1943), a guitarist and singer from Greece who recorded sides for RCA Victor and Columbia in the 1930s and 40s. He played several different styles throughout his career, including a large Hawaiian steel guitar repertoire. However, this song is a “rebetika”, a kind of Greek popular song and “outlaw blues” which typically dealt with street culture: sex, violence, drugs and death. Springing up around the turn of the 20th century in places like Constantinople (Istanbul!) and Ottoman Smyrna, its origins are hazy and, as it was a song tradition associated with hashish dens, criminals, jail, and the poorest classes, it was banned for a time starting in 1937. So the music went underground and the tradition carried on, ever with the possibility of imprisonment or worse.

“Isouna Xypoliti” translates to “Without Stockings.” I looked around the internet and found a really great translation of the lyrics, which deal with a man addressing his wife who now wants luxuries like earrings:

“you were barefoot, out on the streets, now that I took you in (or married you) you even ask for a horse and stable boys, you were out in the market begging for some food, now that I took you in you want earrings”

However, because of all the antiquated Greek slang, some of the lyrics are difficult to connect. The last two verses deal with imprisoning Death to live forever, dice gambling and something about the cops, but it is not entirely clear. To me, the incomplete understanding of the lyrics is just another reason to dig in and inhabit the world and voice of the character. And the two guitar attack playing a traditional 9/4 meter full of quick, dark, and sort of “Eastern blues” runs, is hypnotizing.

This shellac is also of the much rarer 12″ sort, which makes for an almost 4-minute song, whereas most 78s are 10″ and hold between 2-3 minutes of music. Opa!

 

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“White Silver Sands” is a famous pop song written in 1957 by Red Matthews and covered quite often thereafter, but this Don Rondo & Billy Rock Orchestra version has a cheerful, bop-country rock feel and the melody is fun to hum (and can get stuck in yer’ head)

“Where the deep blue pearly waters
Wash upon white silver sands
There on the brink of love I kissed her
And obeyed our hearts command
Where the deep blue pearly waters
Wash upon white silver sands
We watched the sun set in the evening
In a far and distant land”

 

On the NYC Jubilee Records label, Rondo scored a Billboard #7 chart hit with this one the same year Matthews wrote it.

 

 

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On the rare La Belle Creole label, this Haitian 78 rpm of Guy du Rosier singing the rollicking, self-penned calypso “Mathilda” is a real treasure; and not only because it is basically impossible to find in any shape. Around 1948 Du Rosier and his Rhythm recorded this lively performance filled with masterful percussion, rock solid & perfectly playful piano by Bebo Valdes (father of the very famous contemporary pianist Chucho Valdes), and an energetic vocal take which was just loose enough to catch the island feeling but not lose the ensemble nuances that you need to pull off this kind of laid-back sound. Later on, in the 1950s, Harry Belafonte would do his own version of this tune to great acclaim, but this lesser-known original take (on a super clean shellac – yes!) is the one I prefer every time.

Edith Piaf once called Mr. Du Rosier, a calypso star from an early age, ”the living breath of Haiti.”

 

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This sax-driven tune, written around 1947 by a musician from Rhodesia (current day Zimbabwe) named August Msarurgwa, became a worldwide hit in 1954 and was quickly covered by many popular groups of the era, including this exceptional mambo by one of the undisputed kings of the style, Prez Prado. “Skokiaan” is the name of a home-made hooch, basically a moonshine often made with maize, that was popular in Southern Africa at the time.

Also nice that this wonderful performance comes on a mid-50s RCA shellac, which are known for their high fidelity and warmth.

 

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