The California Ramblers’ recordings for Edison in the summer of 1929 are the swan song of the Jazz Age.
Cut not long before the company’s demise, this week’s sides capture the sunny mood of the last season of the 20th century’s adolescence. Broadway Baby Dolls carries the infectious spirit of the times, with hot ensemble playing and rhythm that loudly announces the coming of the swing era, while the catchy Broken Idol reflects the oriental vogue of the 1920s and summons a vision of couples circling a dance floor on a summer evening.
While the band is here past its prime, having lost many of its star players to Fred Elizalde’s orchestra in London a couple of years before — the absence of bass sax player Adrian Rollini is particularly noticeable, with the more conventional brass bass making this incarnation of the California Ramblers harder to distinguish from other dance bands of the period — these recordings still have a lot to recommend them, not least of which is the quality of the electric recording. Edison was a sluggish adopter of the process, waiting until the waning months of 1927 (more than two years after rivals Columbia and Victor) to bring the new equipment to his studios. In the summer of 1929, Edison took another step closer to the mainstream market by starting to release lateral-cut ‘needle type’ 78s, which could be played on conventional phonographs, along with the thick ‘hill and dale’ platters and cylinders the company had been manufacturing for decades for playing on Edison machines.
But the changes were too late to save Edison Records, which had already been marginalized, partly by Thomas Edison’s aggressively un-hip influence on the catalogue (the California Ramblers are among the exceptions to a generally stodgy output), and the company went out of business on Nov. 1, 1929.
Broadway Baby Dolls
New York, June 4, 1929
Frank Cush – Angie Rattiner – t / Carl Loeffler – tb / Pete Pumiglio – Harold Marcus – cl – as / Sam Ruby -ts / Sid Harris – vn / Chauncey Gray – p / Mike Poveromo – g / Ward Lay – bb / Chick Condon – d /
New York, Aug. 1, 1929
Chelsea Quealey – Fred Van Eps, Jr. – t / Carl Loeffler – tb / Pete Pumiglio – Harold Marcus – cl – as / Sam Ruby – ts / Chauncey Gray – p / Tommy Felline – g / Ward Lay – bb / Stan King – d / Phil Dewey – v.