2008 will always be remembered fondly in the world of jazz because it's the year of this music's greatest discovery. Buddy Bolden's only recording is no longer stuff of legend and lore, but a reality. The story of this great find sounds almost fictional: A graduate student at the University of Kansas while helping a local man clean out his attic came across a box of old phonograph LPs. One of those turned out to be the legendary single recording made by the great Buddy Bolden, the man who has been credited for inventing jazz.
Smithsonian/Folkway label has released the CD The Sky Is Blue, that includes an interview with the young man who made this discovery and six later versions of the tune recorded by others. The single two minute recording, made in 1903, is of course that of his most famous piece, "The Sky Is Blue and So Am I." The liner notes only also identifies in addition to Bolden, clarinetist Frank Lewis. The sound, despite recent technology and digital re-mastering, is still quite "boxy" but the sheer power of Bolden playing is palpable.
His cornet can be heard clearly over that of the rest of the musicians and if one listens carefully, one can hear the exciting virtuosity of his musicianship. The inclusion of the other later versions allows one to appreciate the timelessness of the tune itself. This is of course the most significant and historical recording of jazz. It is almost the equivalent of hearing Johan Sebastian Bach play his own toccatas. The LP was of course museum bound and the CD allows us to experience a piece of history again and again in the comfort of our homes.
The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (1903 original); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 2); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 3); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 4); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 5); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 6); interview.
Buddy Bolden: cornet (1); Frank Lewis: clarinet (1); various artists (2-6).
A young artist exhibits his work for the first time. An art critic is in attendance. The critic says, "would you like my opinion on your work?" "Yes," says the artist. "It's worthless," says the critic. The artist replies "I know, but tell me anyway."