COMPACT DISC REVIEW

by

Jack Rummel

 

 

Oh! Sister, Ain't That Hot!

Frank Westphal and His Orchestra

Rivermont Records BSW-1158

 

She's a Mean Job  / If You Knew / Those Longing For You Blues / Don't Bring Me Posies / State Street Blues / Choo Choo Blues / That Barkin' Dog (Woof Woof!) / You Tell 'Em Ivories / Coaxing the Piano / Stop Your Kidding / Greenwich Witch / Railroad Man / Bugle Call Rag / Wolverine Blues / Off Again On Again Blues / Two Time Dan / Dusting the Keys / Pianola / Oh! Sister, Ain't That Hot! / All Wrong / I've Got a Song For Sale / Stack O' Lee Blues / Forgetful Blues / Home in Pasadena / That Lullaby Strain.

 

     By the early 1920s, much of the world had come to recognize that the center of modern musical innovation was Chicago , although New York still remained the center of the fledgling publishing and recording industry.  Industry executives were on the lookout for Chicago groups, and one of the bands they recruited to record was Frank Westphal and His Orchestra.  Best remembered today as the husband (briefly) of Sophie Tucker, Westphal (1889-1948) was a talented pianist and band leader whose short recording career (1922-1924) produced many superior sides, some of which had connections to ragtime.

     Included on this CD are four piano solos featuring Westphal: two compositions by Zez Confrey (You Tell 'Em Ivories and Coaxing the Piano), a number by Ed Claypoole (Dusting the Keys) and an original work by Westphal (Pianola), all testimonies to his immense skill at the keyboard.  The Confrey titles have been extensively recorded by others, but recordings of Dusting the Keys are quite rare and Westphal's recording of Pianola, a very clever and challenging novelty piano piece, may be the only one in existence.

     Original 78 RPM records owned by several collectors were transferred and digitally re-mastered by producer Bryan Wright, resulting in clean reproductions of the standard "low fidelity" of the day.  There is an accompanying 28-page booklet featuring an extensive historical text by Mark Berresford, with many reproductions of original record labels and photographs.  For musical history buffs or fans of hot '20s orchestras, this disc will be a "must-have."  Ragtime aficionados will have to assess the value of owning a recording of two extremely rare novelty pieces plus versions of two Confrey works that, while excellent, are readily available elsewhere in much higher fidelity.

     Available for $16.00 plus shipping from <www.rivermontrecords.com>.