B.A.B. and Wurlitzer band organ tunes: the Elbasani project
Here are some thoughts of mine occasioned by Marc Elbasani's recording
project. Fuel for the fire, so to speak.
Marc's B.A.B. recordings probably fill a gap in the spectrum of what
is available. There are virtually no high-quality recordings of B.A.B.
band organ music available, whereas several people -- Bill Black
(Carrousel Music), Harvey Roehl, Dynamic Recording Studios, Klavier --
have made quality tapes and CD's of Wurlitzer tunes. So Marc is plowing
fresh and fertile ground here.
But the tunes on B.A.B. rolls, virtually all arranged by J. Lawrence
Cook and heavily marked by his style, were made between 1930 and 1957,
well after the best Tin Pan Alley period. Those tunes selected for
B.A.B. rolls strike me as being, by and large, pretty trashy ones;
then they were given the Cook touch, pulling them down further in my
estimation. The earlier B.A.B. output has more class than the stuff
from the 40's and 50's; but so much of that early production has been
lost that accurate judgment is hard to make.
A fair percentage of tunes on B.A.B. rolls are Italian tunes, due proba-
bly to the nationality of the company's owners and their connection with
the Italian Book Company, Brooklyn music publishers, from whom the sheet
music for the Italian tunes seems to have come.
But if you like the B.A.B. repertoire -- and I know several people
who do, preferring it to the more formulaic Wurlitzer style, which was
designed for skating and dancing -- Marc's CD's should please you
When it comes to selecting Wurlitzer tunes for recording, Marc has to
walk a difficult tightrope between re-issuing the old familiar, but
salable, stuff that has already been recorded too many times (like
"Over the Waves" and "Wedding of the Winds") and issuing good but
completely unfamiliar tunes like "Thurston" or "Oh, Lizzie," whose
titles wouldn't lure people into buying the CD.
But given the almost 2000 Wurlitzer 165 tunes to choose from , I'm
a bit sorry that fresher Wurlitzer tunes than those Marc mentioned
are being contemplated for his first release. Why not "Salut a Pesth"
or "My Own Iona" or even the standard and familiar, but not yet
over-recorded, "That International Rag," "Shuffle Off To Buffalo,"
or "It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary"?
My thoughts only.