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THe Frog Blues and Jazz Annual No. 1

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  • Michael Rader
    The Frog Blues and Jazz Annual has been mentioned a couple of times already, but apart from general endorsements, we have seen little on appearance and
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2010
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      The Frog Blues and Jazz Annual has been mentioned a couple of times already, but apart from general endorsements, we have seen little on appearance and content, so this is my own impression and opinion:
      Ever since Laurie Wright decided to call it a day as the publisher of Storyville, many readers, myself included, have hoped that some day some one would be willing to close the gap. Well, in a nutshell, it looks as though the Frog Jazz and Blues Annual might be closing that gap.
      That said, this is a far more ambitious undertaking in terms of presentation than “Storyville” ever was, or could have been. It is a 176-page large, soft-covered book in full colour, profusely illustrated with photographs, reproductions of record labels, sheet music covers and other ephemera, in addition to a section of jazz portraits from photographs by Chris Powell, making it a pleasure simply to browse without reading the text. The volume contains articles of varying length on a range of topics from blues to hot jazz of the 1920s and 30s.
      Much of the writing is original work especially for the volume, but there are also pieces that have been published previously, such as an article on Sydney (sic) Bechet from the Baltimore African American of June 1941 and an excerpt from Fred Cox’s works on the Jug Bands of Louisville for “Storyville”. This benefits from the appropriate illustrations inserted into the text. There is a short snippet on Bernie Young from a forthcoming work by Chris Hillman, presumably included, as was the Cox piece, to promote forthcoming Frog CDs. The longest articles are on blues and boogie related subjects including an article by Paul Swinton himself on Arnold Wiley, best known as a solo pianist and accompanist. But hold on: this piece is illustrated with a photo containing the only known shot of Jimmy O’Bryant, which was reproduced on the cover of the booklet of Frog’s Jimmy O’Bryant CD. O’Bryant isn’t the only person captured on this posed action shot: beside a female singer with her face scratched out (thought to be Arnold’s wife Irene), the photo also shows Arnold Wiley, Jasper Taylor and Papa Charlie Jackson. The article suggests that it is in fact Wiley and not Jimmy Blythe on the first session by the Washboard Wonders, so here’s a link. John Collinson writes a piece on Boogie piano, starting with a discussion of the mysterious Clay Custer recording of George W. Thomas’ “The Rocks”. An article by Terry Heath investigates Henry “Ragtime Texas” Thomas and Alex van Tuuk writes about the Grave brothers, two gospel performers associated with the Mississippi Jook Band. The same author also investigates the Revival of Paramount in 1935. Chris Hillman puts repeat appearances with articles on Cab Calloway and the Cotton Club and Old New Orleans Blues - recordings made in that city in the 1920s - and Howard Rye continues his writing from where he left off in Storyville with a thoroughly researched essay on Opal Cooper, the Red Devils and International Five. Joe Moore's Glimpse of the Past contains items on jazz and blues from the contemporary press.
      Howard Rye already hinted here that the two articles by Richard Rains might lead to debate: in one he reinvestigates the work of Tom Morris, for some reason not taking account of the recent article by K.B. Rau in “Names and Numbers”, in the other, he revisits the legend of “Big Charlie Thomas”, a trumpeter identified from circumstantial evidence by John R.T. Davies. His conclusion is bound to lead to discussion, but I won’t spoil your reading by revealing all.
      The major difference to Storyville is that this edition contains nothing on “white” jazz or non-US jazz, apart from Chris Powell’s portrait of Sam Lanin familiar to those owning the Lanin CD on Frog. The other portraits are similar in style and might remind some of cartoonist R. Crumb’s portraits based on photos. One portrait is of the mysterious Roger "Burn Down" Garnett who is covered on the complementary CD with an unissued Library of Congress test. Blues specialists might like to comment.
      The CD serves mainly to illustrate the text of the annual and is not another “Frog Spawn” although it does have the odd unissued track or elusive alternate take. It is in the same kind of spirit as the CDs coming with John Tefteller’s Blues Artwork Calendars and makes for entertaining listening even if you do have most of the music. The CD has the additional benefit of fine audio restoration work by Nick Dellow.
      If you’ve been hesitating, I hope this encourages you to buy. If there is the response this deserves, I’m sure that it will be the first of many.

      P.S. I have no interest whatever in Frog, except as a satisfied customer.

      Michael Rader, Karlsruhe, Germany
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