The Halfway House Orchestra

U.S. Columbia 1542-D April 26, 1928

U.S. Columbia 1542-D
April 26, 1928

Click here to listen to Love Dreams

What with the windows misting up in the cold and the street lamps blinking on spitefully early, it’s time to break out the hot, bright music of the Halfway House Orchestra.

Led by Albert Brunies of New Orleans’ legendary Brunies music family, this band cut a couple of dozen masters for Columbia field units between 1925 and 1928, after making their recording debut with a single OKeh release. There’s a lot to like about them: Aside from their obviously terrific musicianship, there’s an almost spooky amount of life and immediacy in the grooves they put down more than 80 years ago — and a poetic, forlorn note just under the sweet, swinging surface.

To launch this blog I’ve chosen a couple of sides in my collection from two of their later sessions. The first, Love Dreams, is propelled by soloing typical of the band’s soft-spoken yet hot style. Rust has the lineup for the first as: Albert Brunies-c dir. / Sidney Arodin-cl / Joe Loyacano-as / Glyn Lea “Red” Long-p / Angelo Palmisano-bj /  Chink Martin-bb / Emmett Rogers-d.

The second, recorded the next day with the same personnel, but with Martin playing string bass, also carries very fine solos, including some tasteful work by Loyacano and a particularly sly and lovely contribution by Arodin.

Australian Columbia 01437  April 27, 1928

Australian Columbia 01437
April 27, 1928

Click here to listen to Wylie Avenue Blues

Wylie Avenue Blues is probably the band’s most lusted-after release but copies only grudgingly yield to collectors because, for obscure reasons, it was only released in Australia. I finally got a copy this month after looking around for one for several years, thanks to Australian writer and publisher Peter Stone, who kindly agreed to give his record — with its original sleeve — a new home in Canada. He recalls that his copy was probably tucked away in a batch of 700 records he bagged in Melbourne in the mid-1970s.
A very helpful article about Albert Brunies and the Halfway House Orchestra, by Ate van Delden, can be found at http://www.vjm.biz/new_page_19.htm. A sad update: The band’s namesake chief venue stood for decades in New Orleans at City Park Avenue near the Ponchartrain Expressway, serving as, among other things, the premises of a pest-control company before it was abandoned in 1995. I used to hear from time to time that there were plans to restore the Halfway House to its former glory, but the city of New Orleans demolished the derelict building in 2010.

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5 responses to “The Halfway House Orchestra

  1. Good luck with your new blog, Mark! It looks really sharp and I can’t wait to listen to more of your music collection and see your comics online.

  2. Enjoyed this. Audio quality on ‘Love Dreams’ seems better than on ‘Wylie Avenue Blues’, but I dig the latter track more – I find it denser, more compelling, and more immediate, even though it was recorded a day later.

    I’m assuming ‘bb’ refers in some way to tuba? ’cos that’s the only bass instrument I could discern in ‘Love Dreams’.

    Am definitely looking forward to future postings! 🙂

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