How Low Can You Go? Anthology of the String Bass (1925-1941)

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How Low Can You Go? Anthology of the String Bass (1925-1941)

(Dust to Digital)

This 3-CD labor of love puts the spotlight on the most underappreciated of all vital instruments, the string bass. Perhaps because it's so often obscured on rudimentary recordings of old, the instrument remains habitually overlooked, or in this case, forever underheard. What's particularly interesting about this 79-song boutique compilation is the way it programs the ear. You're actually listening for the bass, whether plucked, bowed, or slapped. As well, the beautiful, annotated 96-page companion book highlights the individual bassists within each band. Disc one spans 1925-30, the so-called jazz age. It's the period when the bass started to replace the tuba, affording bands much greater flexibility and nimbleness. The artists include the set's only female bassist, Thelma Terry & Her Playboys, plus "Pops" Foster with Luis Russell, John Kirby with Fletcher Henderson, and Wellman Braud with Duke Ellington recording under the guise of Joe Turner & His Memphis Men. Especially noteworthy is a very rare track by bass pioneer Walter Page & His Original Blue Devils. Page's innovations portend the second disc's era, 1931-41, which is basically dance bands of the swing era. The widely divergent selections include Trinidad's Wilmoth Houdini, Joe Ferguson with Bob Wills, Milt Hinton with violinist Eddie South, and legendary bassist Jimmy Blanton with Duke Ellington. Disc three exclusively features the little-known bassman Bill Johnson in a series of 1928-29 recordings with a variety of obscure groups. If you prefer your bass on top and out front, you can't limbo any lower than this Anthology.

***.5

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