From the Record Shelves #129

Up and At ’Em

LP Biograph BLP-12021

Today I listen to another LP with California Ramblers. Their output on records is enormous until 1930 when they dropped the name and became Ted Wallace and his Orchestra on records.

Since those 1925-1929 recordings are made for Edison with a special “hill-and-dale” method that required a special machine to play them, they are rare and unfortunately a bit anachronistic in the sound quality. On the plus side they have a bit longer playing time than the normal three minutes.

But the music is up-to-date and sounds fresh to my ears. The Ramblers, based in New York, played every night in their own Ramblers Inn. They played for dancing but for an orchestra with that function they are very creative, constantly changing the arrangements and allowing a lot of space for improvised solos.

It’s a difficult but interesting task to dive deep in their music and try to clear out who is playing what when it comes to the solos. The author of the liner notes Michael Brooks has done just that, and he has had the fortune of getting help from the bands manager Ed Kirkeby who was exemplary in keeping notes of everything concerning the bands activities.

This hot tune consisting of riffs on a twelve bar blues and a sixteen bar theme was composed and also recorded by C-melody sax player Jack Pettis and pianist Al Goering. In the California Ramblers version there are solos by almost everyone; alto sax, trumpet, clarinet, trombone, piano and in the end eventually another alto sax. They play good fluent solos but then as Brooks put it “Rollini swoops down like an eagle and overshadows everyone else.” Adrian Rollini on bass sax was their star and he and banjo player Tom Fellini are also a good asset in the rhythm section.