Eddie Lang & Joe Venuti: Raggin' the Scale
Raggin' the Scale
The New York Sessions 1926-1935 (JSP Records)
Phil Wall (piano).
Composed by Edward Claypoole.
Recorded: New York, February 28, 1933
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Call me crazy, but to my ears (and to get a bit grandiose), this seems like a short-piece jazz answer to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (especially No. 3), taking a holistic impression of the piece. Particularly in the early going, in the basic structure of the ensemble's instruments and their respective roles, in the leading violin lines in relation to the rest, in the flowing, rolling music that seems like an aural stream cascading over smooth rocks down a hill (though in musically ascending and descending manner), it could serve as a jazz version of a Brandenburg Concerto.
In any case, this is marvelous, fun, rousing, rolling, upbeat and up-tempo music. It features typical expressive lead lines from Venuti's violin. But it is very much ensemble jazz, with breaks for violin, banjo, piano and clarinet all adding nice creative lines and further dimensions of texture and tone, with Adrian Rollini's bass sax providing well-timed, deep sonic underpinning and punch. Also, especially when the piano comes to the fore, it has a ragtime feel (with hints of Jelly Roll Morton).
Reviewer: Dean Alger
Editor's Note: Jazz.com's staff nearly came to blows attempting to decide what instrument Eddie Lang plays during his solo from 1:27-1:43. Our reviewer, the esteemed Dr. Alger, cited compelling circumstantial evidence in favor of the banjo. But Jethro Grisman, interim chair of our Bluegrass/Newgrass/Jazzgrass Advisory Panel, hotly disputed this, insisting upon mandolin. Meanwhile, our Hawaiian stringer Reet-Poteet Papah?naumoku?kea held out by email for ukulele. There was also talk of the Puerto Rican tiple, but this was never taken seriously, as no one in our shop has ever heard one. Since Eddie Lang, who sadly died a month after this recording and is thus unavailable for comment, was born Salvatore Massaro to an Italian-American instrument maker in South Philly, and insofar as mandolins first appeared in Italy during the 17th century, the sentimental favorite remains that plectral descendant of the lute. However, sentiment is hardly an authoritative way to resolve such an important issue of musical scholarship. If anyone has definitive information, please respond below. – Alan Kurtz, Music Review Editor, Jazz.com