World Music Network has played a key role in the education of some of America’s greatest musical forms in recent years with its Rough Guide to… compilations. The records have done an impressive job of introducing audiences to the songs and artists that formed the foundations of blues, gospel, country music and even the subgenres connected therewith. Now this week, the company will continue delving into the history of American music when it releases its latest compilation, The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz. Scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network, the 26-song compilation proves itself an important teaching tool for any music history educator. It proves itself an equally positive presentation for anyone looking to learn the history of jazz. While maybe not the presentation that is Ken Burns’ Jazz, it is still a successful record. That is due in no small part to its featured songs and artists. This will be discussed shortly. The songs’ sequencing plays into the record’s presentation in its own right and will be discussed a little later. The record’s overall production rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this compilation’s presentation. All things considered, they make the record another positive new offering from World Music Network that this time, will appeal to any lover of jazz.
World Music Network’s forthcoming addition to its ongoing Rough Guide to… compilation series is a work that any jazz fan will find appealing. It is a presentation, additionally, that continues to show the value and importance of the series. That is proven in part through the record’s featured songs. Audiences will note that the songs in question focus on a very specific time frame. The time frame in question is a decade-long time frame from 1918 to 1928. This period, typically called “The Jazz Age,” is one of the most important eras in the history of jazz. It is a period that saw great change and diversity in the jazz community. The beginning of the big bands came about in this time period through the introduction of acts, such as Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and the Ray Miller Orchestra. Dixieland jazz also saw its earliest iterations during this era. It was also during this age that jazz and blues started to blend even more. Those changes and others are all exemplified in the songs and artists featured in this record. Fats Waller’s take on ‘Muscle Shoals Blues’ for instance exhibits the way in which ragtime and blues really started to meld with jazz for a unique style of jazz in itself. Meanwhile, the inclusion of Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra’s performance of ‘The Stampede’ is a prime example of the increasing presence of New York in the then growing jazz community. What’s more, the upbeat rhythms and melodies serve well to show the also growing popularity of swing and big bands across America at the time. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s performance of ‘Tiger Rag’ shows, on yet another hand, the influence of the New Orleans jazz community on the nation’s growing jazz scene. The ragtime influence is there, but so is the regional Dixieland influence, creating yet another key addition to the compilation. Between these songs, so many others from some of the most well-known and respected jazz acts (and even a handful of lesser-known but still important acts), the songs and their related acts create a solid foundation for this record. They do well to start any discussion and soundtrack to any lesson about the evolution of jazz in its early evolution. Building on the foundation formed by the songs and their performers is the actual sequencing of that content.
The record’s sequencing is important to examine because of its connection to the content overall. Listeners who pay close attention will note that the sequencing shows a clear attempt to exhibit all of the forms of jazz that started appearing during the post-World War I era. The whole thing opens with an example of the blending of jazz and blues in ‘Dippermouth Blues’ before moving on to a country music-influenced composition in ‘Eddie’s Twister’ by none other than “the father of the jazz guitar” himself, Eddie Lang. ‘Sud Buster’s Dream,’ performed here by Tiny Parham and his Orchestra. The ragtime influences that he enjoyed early on in his career are evident here along with a more orchestral jazz approach. From there, the record changes the stylistic approaches and sounds (and by connection, energies) throughout. This ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment in its own way. When that overall sequencing and its impact is considered along with the record’s songs, that collective gives listeners even more reason to take in this record. Taking all of that into account, the record’s production proves itself to be the last of the compilation’s most important elements.
The production of the songs featured in this record is important because of the sense of nostalgia that it will create among listeners. Every bit of static from the original vinyl recordings is audible in these songs. It serves as another example of why there will always be a place for CDs. This despite the belief among some audiences that vinyl and digital will replace CDs one day. The ability to transfer such old recordings to CD without any loss makes this compilation just as good as any vinyl if not better. The only real downside to the fact that the masters were transferred direct is that listeners might find themselves having to adjust the volume on their stereos at points throughout the compilation’s 76-minute (one hour, 16-minutes) run time. Luckily, those adjustments are minor and not needed in every song. To that end, the general effect of the record’s production is that it is just as easy on the ears as on the mind.
World Music Network’s forthcoming jazz compilation, The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz is a positive new addition to the label’s ongoing Rough Guide to… series of compilations. It is a presentation that any jazz aficionado will enjoy, at that. That is due in part to the record’s featured songs and their performers. The songs and their performers are a mix of the well- and lesser-known acts that made the “Jazz Age” such an important era in the history of music. The sequencing of that content keeps said content varied from beginning to end, making sure to paint the fullest picture possible in regards to the history of the era. The record’s production sounds just as great as any ever put to vinyl in that era, too. It shows it is possible to transfer vinyl to CD without any loss. That positive effect generates a welcome sense of nostalgia, even as listeners will have to occasionally adjust the volume on their stereos as the album progresses. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz. All things considered, they make the compilation another positive addition to World Music Network’s Rough Guide to… compilation series and a work that any lover of jazz will enjoy. The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz is scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network.
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