This magnificent boxed set of five CDs and one DVD represents the entire commercially released recorded output of the Boswell Sisters, the most popular and influential close harmony vocal group ever. They were white, but lead singer Connie she later changed the spelling to Conneesang black. Ella Fitzgerald, when she was starting out, said her aim was to sound just like her.
Before they concentrated purely on singing, the sisters were a vaudeville act, accompanying themselves on musical instruments. Elder sister Martha, played piano, Connie played cello and the youngest, Helvetia, known as Vet, not only played fiddle but also performed tap and clog dancing to order. Travelling to gigs, Martha and Vet would carry Connie, who had been crippled in a childhood accidentshe always sang sitting down.
This set follows the Boswells' career as a vocal group from 1931 until 1936, when Martha and Vet quit showbiz in favor of married life, leaving Connieby now Conneeto pursue a successful solo career. It's a reminder that, before the advent of bebopand for good or illjazz was entertainment ,and part of the popular music mainstream.
On the debit side there are collaborations with long forgotten male singers with sub- operatic pretensions, medleys of show tunes, anomalies, such as the sisters singing male parts ("When I Take My Sugar To Tea" and "Shine On Harvest Moon"), and one outright racist number ("That's Why Darkies Were Born"). There is also much corn, literally so on the DVD, which opens with a barnyard send-up titled "Close Farm-ony."
The Boswells also endorsed the incorporation of elements of the blues into popular music ("Was That The Human Thing To Do?" and Harold Arlen's wonderful "Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea"). In this department, Connie's unaccompanied vocal on "Got The South In My Soul" is pure magic.
Mostly, of course, in our harsh modern age, the Boswells represent unabashed nostalgia. When they sang "Thank You Mister Moon" mankind had yet to walk on it. In their day, million dollar babies might still be found in five and ten cent stores. And their "Rock And Roll," from 1934, had neither sexual nor musical connotations, but was just about "the rolling, rocking rhythm of the sea."
Track Listing: CD1: Wha'dja Do To Me? When I Take My Sugar To Tea; Roll On,
Mississippi; Shout, Sister, Shout; Sing A Little Jingle; I Found A Million
Dollar Baby; It's The Girl; It's You; Makin' Faces At The Man In The
Moon; I Can't Write The Words; Shine On Harvest Moon; Heebie
Jeebies; River, Stay 'Way From My Door; An Ev'ning In Caroline;
Nothing Is Sweeter Than You; I Thank You Mister Moon; Was That The
Human Thing To Do?; Put That Sun Back In The Sky; Stop The Sun,
Stop The Moon; Everybody Loves My Baby; There'll Be Some Changes
Made; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea; If It Ain't Love; Got
The South In My Soul.
CD2: Nights When I'm Lonely; We're On The Highway To Heaven; That's
What I Like About You; My Future Just Passed; Heebie Jeebies; Gee,
But I'd Like To Make You Happy; Don't Tell Him What Happened To Me;
I Surrender Dear; Star Dust; Sing A Little Jingle; Gems From George
White's Scandals, Parts 1 and 2; We've Got To Put That Sun Back In
The Sky; Was That The Human Thing To Do?; California Medley, Parts 1
and 2; Lawd, You Made The Night Too Long; O.K., America Medley,
Part 2; O.K., America Medley, Part 1.
CD3: Was That The Human Thing To Do?; California Medley, Part Two;
Lawd, You Made The Night Too Long; O.K., America Medley, Part 2;
O.K., America Medley, Part 1; Doggone, I've Done It; Hand Me Down My
Walkin' Cane; Old Yazoo; We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye; Sleep, Come
On And Take Me; Down Among The Sheltering Palms; Down On The
Delta; Charlie Two-Step; A Sentimental Gentleman From Georgia; It
Don't Mean A Thing; Louisiana Hayride; Minnie The Moocher's Wedding
Day; Crazy People; Mood Indigo; Forty-Second Street; Shuffle Off To
CD4: California Medley, Part 2; O.K., America Medley, Part 2; We Just
Couldn't Say Goodbye; Sleep, Come On And Take Me; Down Among
The Sheltering Palms; Mood Indigo; Forty-Second Street; The Gold
Diggers' Song; It's Sunday Down In Caroline; Puttin' It On, Swanee
Mammy; Sophisticated Lady; That's How Rhythm Was Born; Song of
Surrender; Coffee In The Morning; You Oughta Be In Pictures; I Hate
Myself (For Being So Mean To You); Goin' Home; The Lonesome Road;
Rock And Roll; If I Had A Million Dollars; The Object Of My Affection; It's
Written All Over Your Face; Dinah.
CD5: OK America; Coffee In The Morning; Alexander's Ragtime Band;
The Darktown Strutters' Ball; Don't Let Your Love Go Wrong; Why Don't
You Practice What You Preach?; If I Had A Million Dollars; The Object
Of My Affection; It's Written All Over Your Face; Dinah; Way Back
Home; Every Little Moment; Travelin' All Alone; St Louis Blues; Fare
Thee Well, Annabelle; Lullaby Of Broadway; Top Hat, White Tie And
Cheek To Cheek; I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter;
The Music Goes Round And Around; Let Yourself Go; I'm Putting All My
Eggs In One Basket.
Personnel: Tommy Dorsey: trombone; Will Bradley: trombone; Charlie Butterfield:
trombone; Russ Jenner:
trombone; Jimmy Dorsey: clarinet; Red Nichols: clarinet; Benny
Goodman: clarinet; Artie Shaw:
clarinet; Don Redman: flute, alto saxophone; Larry Binyon: flute, tenor
saxophone; Babe Russin: tenor saxophone; Chester Hazlett: alto
saxophone; Bunny Berigan: trumpet; Mannie Klein: trumpet; Johnny
"Scat" Davis: trumpet Mannie
Weinstock: trumpet; Russ Case: trumpet; Ed Wade: trumpet; Joe
Venuti: violin; Harry Hoffman:
violin; Arthur Schutt: piano; Martha Boswell: piano; Vitaly Jaques
Lubowski: piano; Jack
Russin: piano; Eddie Lang: guitar; Dick McDonough: guitar; Carl Kress:
Sherwood: guitar; Joe Brannelly: guitar; Perry Botkin: banjo, guitar; Artie
Bernstein: bass; Dick Cherwin: bass; Dick Ball: bass; Stan King: drums;
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.