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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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48 of the Best

Retrieval RTR 79059



1. Is She My Girl Friend?
2. You Don't Like It - Not Much
3. Corn Fed
4. Back Beats
5. Miss Annabelle Lee
6. There's A Cradle in Caroline
7. I Ain't Got Nobody
8. Heart-Breakin' Baby
9. Together, We Two
10. After My Laughter Came Tears
11. Faces At The Window
12. Wob-a-ly Walk
13. We Ain't Got Nothin' To Lose
14. Way Back When
15. For My Baby
16. Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
17. Mississippi Mud
18. She's A Great, Great Girl
19. Didn't I Tell You?
20. Because My Baby Don't Mean "Maybe" Now
21. Slow Music
22. This Is The Way The Puff-puff Goes
23. All By Yourself In The Moonlight
24. From Saturday Night Till Monday Morning

1. Don't Be Like That
2. Shout Hallelujah, 'Cause I'm Home
3. My Southern Home
4. I'm Crazy Over You
5. That's Her Now
6. A Dicky Bird Told Me So
7. Umtcha, Umtcha, Da-Da-Da
8. Rhythm King
9. I Faw Down An' Go "Boom"!
10. I'm On My Way South
11. My Troubles Are Over
12. Heigh Ho, Ev'rybody
13. Haven't I?
14. You're A Pain In The Heart To Me
15. Spring It In The Summer And She'll Fall
16. Kansas City Kitty
17. I'm Doing What I'm Doing For Love
18. I'm Feathering A Nest
19. I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling
20. Loveable And Sweet
21. Sweethearts' Holiday
22. I'm Speaking Of Kentucky Days
23. 'Tain't No Sin
24. Harlem Madness

Collective personnel
Bert Firman - Violin, director
Frank Guarente, Max Goldberg, Sylvester Ahola, Dennis Ratcliffe, Andy Richardson - Trumpets
Perley Breed - Clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax
Johnny Helfer - Clarinet, tenor sax, vocals
Arthur Lally - Clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax, vocals
Danny Polo, Jack Miranda - Clarinet, alto sax
George Smith - Clarinet, tenor sax
Bill Barton - Tenor sax
John Firman - Piano, reed organ, director
Bert Read - Piano
Joe Brannelly - Banjo, guitar
Billy Bell - Brass bass
Eddie Kollis - Drums, vibes, vocals
Rudy Starita - Drums, vibes, xylophone
Maurice Elwin - Vocals


British jazz from the 1920s has been neglected on record but this double CD goes some way towards filling that gap. Between 1927 and 1932, Bert Firman (and later his brother John) recorded hundreds of titles for the cheap Zonophone label, using a small band which was called the Rhythmic Eight. It included American as well as British musicians and, like Red Nichols' Five Pennies, the size of the group varied considerably.

The music essentially came into the category of hot dance music, and many of the hot solos were provided by the American artists, who included Danny Polo, Sylvester Ahola, Johnny Helfer and Perley Breed. But Brits like Max Goldberg and Rudy Starita held their own, and Englishman Arthur Lally contributed some good reed solos as well as writing arrangements for the band. (Arthur was the brother of Jimmy Lally, the man who wrote many inferior arrangements later used by dance bands.)

The ensemble sound is close to that of Red Nichols' groups, with quite a lot of arranged passages which nevertheless leave room for the hot solos. Much of the material consists of fairly corny popular songs with un-jazzy vocals and titles like Wob-a-ly Walk, This Is The Way The Puff-puff Goes and I Faw Down An' Go "Boom"! It sounds odd to hear Maurice Elwin singing Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man. But there are also plenty of the tunes which were jazz standards of the period, like Miss Annabelle Lee and Rhythm King. There is even a catchy version of Mississippi Mud - Bing Crosby's best-known hit from his days with Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys.

Perhaps because we are used to hearing the British dance bands of the 1930s, when the jazz content could be depressingly slight, these tracks surprise with their lively animation and inventive soloing. Even if the material was sometimes banal, the musicians managed to raise it into the sphere of jazz. A track like I'm Speaking of Kentucky Days has the lift of a Bix Beiderbecke small-group recording.

The remastering generally produces a clean, clear sound, although there are occasional lapses. The sleeve-notes leave something to be desired, as the personnel details are sometimes bewildering or dubious - although they were undoubtedly difficult to establish. But we can be grateful for this reminder that jazz had already made significant inroads into Britain during the twenties.

Tony Augarde

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