The Rivermont Label Digs Deep

Bryan Wright’s Rivermont label has released many rewarding recordings featuring hot jazz combos, ragtime, and novelty ragtime pianists, bands from the 1920s, and other miscellaneous projects. Recently Rivermont really dug deep into the vaults, compiling reissues of very obscure music with the second CD in their Irving Aaronson series plus a disc from a band led by Tom Clines.

The Rivermont Label Digs DeepTo most 1920s jazz collectors, the name of bandleader-pianist Irving Aaronson is perhaps most significant for being listed alphabetically at the beginning of many jazz discographies. His recordings have rarely been reissued and the group’s output has often been dismissed. Artie Shaw, who spent a few months in 1930 playing with the band, when asked by me years ago about the Irving Aaronson group, commented that many of its musicians were jokers and that it was largely a comedy band.

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But as Wob-A-Ly Walk 1928-1932 (the second of three scheduled CDs that will reissue all of the music from the orchestra) shows, the group was actually a solid dance band that could play jazz in spurts, even if its occasional comedy falls flat today.

Irving Aaronson’s Commanders were quite popular in the years before the Great Depression. While nearly every one of their recordings features a vocal, often by several of the musicians including Phil Saxe, most are fairly harmless and some include a bit of hot scatting. Solos tend to be short but the ensembles have spirit and sometimes recall Paul Whiteman’s orchestra. The best known of the sidemen are tenor-saxophonist Tony Pestritto (before he became known as Tony Pastor) who is mostly heard as one of the singers, Chummy MacGregor (later Glenn Miller’s pianist) and, on two numbers from 1930, altoist Toots Mondello and Artie Shaw (making his recording debut but unfortunately not having any solo space).

Three songs (two previously unreleased) feature singer Irene Bordoni with whom the band appeared in a show called Paris. Among the better performances are “I’ll Get By” (its earliest recording), “Let’s Do It,” “If I Had You” (with Scrappy Lambert taking the vocal), and the music from two film shorts. While the visual elements of the latter are lost, fortunately the audio survived and the band plays pretty hot on “Oh You Sweet Old Watcha May Call It,” “Wob-a-ly Walk,” and “Nobody’s Sweetheart.”

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This version of the Commanders stopped recording after 1930. Two years later, during a visit to Los Angeles, the decision of several key members to stay in L.A. resulted in its breakup. Rivermont’s third CD in this valuable series will feature the group that Irving Aaronson formed after 1932

Wob-a-ly Walk 1928-1932
(Rivermont BSW-1168, 20 selections, TT = 62:07)

The Rivermont Label Digs DeepIrving Aaronson is a household name compared to Tom Clines. A businessman who had been a car salesman for Ford, Clines began leading a group for Bert Lown (who had a music empire that at its peak involved 17 bands) in 1927. Although he apparently sang a bit and possibly played violin with the ensemble, he apparently does not perform on any of the recordings issued under his own name. During 1929-30 Clines’ Collegians recorded seven songs for the Harmony label and 24 for Brunswick plus a large number of alternate takes for the latter. Wasn’t It Nice has one version of all of the Brunswicks in addition to a second rendition of “The Free And Easy.”

Tom Clines’ group was unusual in that it was comprised of three or four reeds, two violins, piano, banjo or guitar, tuba or bass, and drums with no brass other than a trombonist on six numbers. Singer Jack Carney (Art Carney’s older brother), who has a cheerful if sometimes nasally voice, is on most of the selections and the great bass saxophonist Adrian Rollini adds a lot of swing and occasional short solos to 17 of the numbers. The music is melodic and a bit sweet but swings lightly on the medium-tempo material. These very rare recordings by a forgotten band will please anyone who enjoys late 1920s jazz-inspired dance music.

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Wasn’t It Nice
(Rivermont BSW-1169, 25 selections, TT = 77:52)

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