If I had to choose one word to describe the performances on this album, it would be "elegant." In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Yazoo started branching out into other styles of music recorded before 1950, and their albums of early jazz and ethnic music were just as compelling as their prewar blues LPs. As Richard Lieberson's liner notes explain, this collection focuses on the lost art of chordal style jazz guitar which was largely abandoned in the wake of Charlie Christian's innovations with amplification and single-note choruses. If you're a fan of Django Reinhardt, I think you will absolutely love the material on this album.
The first ten tracks, which come from radio transcriptions from 1941, are some fantastic duets between Carl Kress and Tony Mottola. Although both started out as banjoists, they, like many other early jazz guitarists, made the switch from one instrument to the other as the 1920s progressed into the 1930s. Despite their backgrounds as studio musicians and accompanists to such whitebread acts like the Dorsey Brothers, Perry Como, and other similar prosaic entertainers, their performances here qualify as art of the highest order. Mottola's leads and the rhythm work of Kress perfectly complement each other just like fine wine balances a gourmet meal, with "Nobody's Idea" being my personal favorite among an excellent bunch.
"Danzon" and "I've Got a Feeling You're Fooling Me" from the mid-1930s find Kress teamed up with Dick McDonough, an unheralded jazz guitar pioneer whose tragic early death at age 34 was brought on by alcoholism. These are exquisite performances, and the harmonies that their instruments sometimes produce are nothing short of amazing. Kress' two solo performances from the end of the decade ain't too shabby, either.
The legendary George Van Eps came from a musical family. His father, Fred, recorded as an early ragtime banjoist. Caught between the competing influences of his father and Carl Kress, Van Eps came up with the idea of extending a guitar's low-end range by adding another bass string. The end result was the production of the seven-string guitar by Epiphone in 1940. His four sides featured here date from 1949 (making them among the most recently recorded items to be found on a Yazoo release..."recently" being a relative term, of course) and find him accompanied by a bassist and drummer. Although the presence of this rhythm section causes Van Eps to employ the low seventh string less frequently than on subsequent recordings, it is still easy to discern his unique style, especially on the beautiful "Tea for Two."
1. Fun on the Frets - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
2. Jazz in G - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
3. Sarong Number - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
4. The Camel Walks - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
5. Blonde on the Loose - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
6. Serenade - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
7. Squeeze Box Swing - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
8. Sharp as a Tack - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
9. Nobody's Idea - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
10. Boogie Woogie for Guitar - Carl Kress & Tony Mottola
11. Danzon - Carl Kress & Dick McDonough
12. I've Got a Feeling You're Fooling Me - Carl Kress & Dick McDonough
13. Peg Leg Shuffle - Carl Kress
14. Sutton Mutton (Taking it on the Lamb) - Carl Kress
15. I Wrote it for Jo - George Van Eps
16. Kay's Fantasy - George Van Eps
17. Tea for Two - George Van Eps
18. Once in a While - George Van Eps