It’s Delovely! The Music of Cole Porter. Original Popular Piano Recordings Arranged for Dancing 1920-1940
see end of review for track listing
Sherry Brothers: Adam Carroll; Harry Shipman: Arden and Carroll: Frank Milne: Victor Lane; Edgeworth; R Farquhar; N Sherry; Ferde Grofé; Robert Joyce; Marshall Bartholomew (piano rolls)
rec. piano rolls, 1920-38
PIERIAN 0026 [67:06]

Let's Face the Music and Dance; Original 1930s Piano Recordings for Ampico and Welte
see end of review for track listing
Sherry Brothers; Adam Carroll and Edgar Fairchild; King and Sterling: Howard Lutter: Frank Bauta: Victor Arden: Herbert Clair: Adam Carroll: Frank Milne: Harry Shipman: Rodgers: PaulRickenbach: Phil Ohman: Farquhar; Howard Brockway
rec. piano rolls 1922-36
PIERIAN 0029 [74:58]

The Roaring 20s. Original Popular Piano Recordings for Dancing and Singing played by Ferde Grofé
see end of review for track listing
Ferde Grofé (piano rolls)
rec. piano rolls 1924-27
PIERIAN 0033 [71:24]

I’ve grouped together three Pierian releases because they each reflect something of the pep and vivacity of the 1920s and 1930s, the years in which these piano rolls were recorded by some of the leading practitioners in the field. I’ve reviewed a lot of roll recordings and some by Pierian so it’s not necessary for me to reprise the many caveats necessary when discussing the function and reproduction of rolls, and their very ambiguous position as cultural artefacts.

One of these discs was performed exclusively by a single player, Ferde Grofé and that album is called The Roaring 20s. He recorded the twenty-three pieces between 1924 and 1927, at a time therefore when he was arranging for Paul Whiteman’s orchestra and orchestrating Rhapsody in Blue, which he did in the year he set down his first roll in this set. In total he set down 64 rolls for Ampico between these four years so we have a third or so of them here, and they are representative.

Whatever reservations one has about the system, and they are sometimes overwhelming, one can generally rely on it for relative tempo decisions. This is usually more important in classical works, though it can sometimes crop up in popular songs of the day as well, especially in B sections. Nothing quite so drastically revealing happens here. He takes Hard Hearted Hanna at a jaunty lick, the Vamp from Savannah, GA, sounding more than usually brisk and businesslike. By contrast he – or the roll system, or both – turns Somebody Loves Me into rather a heavy booted affair. It’s instructive though, I think, to hear his very vampy approach to Coward’s Poor Little Rich Girl and his pleasing awareness of the Viennese kitsch that underlies In The Middle Of The Night. His own group, the Virginians, made a disc recording of It's A Million To One You're In Love and this roll recording has verve and plenty of unabashed brio, whereas something like Sonya exudes exotic hues.

It’s Delovely! celebrates the music of Cole Porter and is played by an array of pianists. It may well be more the inherently lumpy and rhythmically unreliable nature of the roll system that I Get a Kick Out of You sounds so lumpy, with a lagging left hand: I doubt Adam Carroll is entirely to blame. The selection from Nymph Errant was not commercially released so it’s good to have it. It’s played by Frank Milne, an incredibly prolific Scottish roll player, who moonlighted under a number of aliases – Sherry Brothers, N Sherry, R Farquhar and Bob Edgeworth among them. Examples of the Dundee-born pianist’s roll recordings litter this series. There are two versions of I'm in Love Again from Greenwich Village Follies of 1924. The first is by Grofé – it’s also on his single volume mentioned above – and the second is by the little-known H Sommer. Both come from 1927.

The final volume, Let's Face the Music and Dance, is a compilation of things from the 1920s and 30s – the disc title is awry in claiming that these are only from – or of – the 1930s as a number of the rolls were made in the late twenties; one actually dates from 1922. ‘Sherry Brothers’ is here again, a veteran of the Ampico system, and we meet the two piano team of Carroll and Fairchild for a Kern song. Once again Coward is vamped – this time Dance, Little Lady, which is played by Howard Lutter (a recording executive, and big cheese in the popular music divisions of Welte) in 1929. It’s intriguing to hear Dancing Fool which has a Billy Mayerl title ring to it, but which espouses some amusing Boogie and railroad rhythms. There are two performances of Dancing in the Dark. That by Adam Carroll is rougher than the suaver effort by Frank Milne. Carroll is one of the heroes of the series, a springy, rhythmically engaging fellow, who is not inferior to Milne. The latter in his alias as Sherry Brothers proves droll in an up-tempo Two Sleepy People. Forget and banish thoughts of Al Bowlly when it comes to Goodnight, Sweetheart. The Ray Noble tune is taken at a fair old lick, for quick dancing purposes.

There is ambient noise in the sound, but there generally is in this series of Pierian discs and I’ve noted it before. The notes include capsule biographies of the performers, where known. If you are looking for some period sounds, then this enjoyable trawl could be a good starting place.

Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
It's Delovely!
It's de-Lovely (Red, Hot and Blue) [2:28]
I Get a Kick Out of You (Anything Goes) [3:35]
You Do Something to Me (Red, Hot and Blue) [2:47]
What Is This Thing Called Love (Wake up and Dream) [3:10]
Night & Day (The Gay Divorce) [2:58]
From Now On/Get Out of Town (Leave It to Me) [3:25]
You've Got Something (Red, Hot and Blue) [3:10]
Rosalie/Who Knows (Rosalie) [3:20]
When Love Comes Your Way/Me and Marie (Jubilee) [6:07]
Swingin' the Jinx Away (Born to Dance) [1:33]
Easy to Love/I've Got You Under My Skin (Born to Dance) [5:45]
You're the Top (Anything Goes) [3:02]
Do I Love You/When Love Beckons (DuBarry Was a Lady) [3:18]
Four Selections From "Panama Hattie" 1. Fresh as a Daisy 2. Let's Be Buddies 3. My Mother Would Love You 4 .I’ve Still Got My Health. [5:55].
Four Selections From "Nymph Errant" 1. How Could We Be Wrong? 2. The Physician 3. Experiment 4.Solomon [3:09]
I'm in Love Again (Greenwich Village Follies of 1924) [2:07]
I'm in Love Again (Greenwich Village Follies of 1924) [3:05]
Let's Do It (Paris) [3:05]
Old-Fashioned Garden, An (Hitchy Koo) [3:01]
Yale Medley (2) 1. Bull Dog 2. Bingo Eli Yale [1:26]

Let's Face the Music and Dance
Let's Face the Music and Dance [2:52]
Never Gonna Dance [2:34]
I Won't Dance [3:17]
Dance, Little Lady [3:28]
Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips With Me [3:34]
The Music Goes Round and Round [2:49]
Dancing on the Ceiling [2:52]
Dancing Fool [3:39]
Dancing in the Dark [2:48]
You and the Night and the Music [3:33]
Dancing in the Dark [3:03]
It's Three O'Clock in the Morning [2:42]
Two Cigarettes in the Dark [2:42]
The Way You Look Tonight [3:10]
I Only Have Eyes For You [3:12]
My Heart Stood Still [2:58]
You Were Meant For Me [2:30]
Two Sleepy People [2:10]
Time on My Hands [2:53]
There's a Small Hotel [3:40]
Embraceable You [3:16]
I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm [3:33]
Goodnight, Sweetheart [3:35]
I'm Singing in the Rain! [3:19]

The Roaring 20s
Limehouse Blues [3:14]
Hard Hearted Hanna [3:18]
5 Foot 2 [2:57]
Somebody Loves Me [3:12]
Novelty Fox Trot Medley [4:08]
It Had To Be You [3:09]
Ukelele Lady [3:01]
Charlie, My Boy [3:03]
Poor Little Rich Girl [3:08]
Crazy Words, Crazy Tune [2:59]
I'm In Love Again [3:22]
On A Night Like This [2:54]
The More We Are Together [2:41]
Musical Comedy Favorites [3:41]
In The Middle Of The Night [2:56]
Lo Nah[3:04]
Please [2:53]
It's A Million To One You're In Love [3:04]
Show Me The Way [2:56]
Somebody Else Took You Out Of My Arms [2:52]
Am I Wasting My Time On You? [2:57]
Thinking Of You [2:57]
Sonya [2:51]