Newly Discovered Recordings From The Closet
Volume 1, 1938-1940
The recordings contained in this collection were recently discovered in a closet of a once working musician. What makes this discovery revelatory is the source, Luis Russell (born Panama Aug 5, 1902, died New York City Dec 11, 1963). A pioneer of early jazz, Luis was an orchestra leader, arranger, composer, and pianist of the first order of magnitude. The recordings, which span a two year period from 1938 through 1940, are primarily radio airchecks, captured by a single wire and cut directly onto a glass or shellac disc. During this period, Luis and his orchestra were doing double duty, serving as Louis Armstrong’s orchestra on stage and on recordings for the Decca label, while also touring and performing as Luis Russell Orchestra without Armstrong.
Luis wanted to hear how his orchestra sounded. The selections he chose to capture from live gigs were, with a few exceptions, songs that he never recorded or released in studio versions. We are able, many decades later, to be a “fly on the wall” at his gigs. We hear material the orchestra leader wanted to playback as a tool for fine tuning his approach.
The recordings were transfered by sound engineer, Doug Pomeroy, the preeminent expert at historical audio restoration. Heavily worn, an indication that Luis Russell listened to them repeatedly, Doug coaxed as much music as possible, using specialized styluses of varied sizes, caressing each side of every groove. A single source capturing a 16 piece orchestra on one channel, without the ability to balance or mix, followed by years of wear, was the grist for Doug Pomeroy’s mill. Another proviso; the source materials were among the roughest Doug had ever encountered. The resulting sound quality reflects these limitations. In some cases, we have only a fragment of the song. The recordings were never intended for commercial release.
When initially discovered, they were shared with a small group of dedicated and generous jazz historians. The response was enthusiastic, with a unanimity that these recordings deserved to be heard and enjoyed. The music shines through as a fascinating document; rarities curated by the leader of one of the greatest orchestras in the history of jazz, including a lineup of legendary, stellar musicians, performing at the peak of their powers.