Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Columbia's orchestra and Monroe Rosenfeld

Yes indeed, It has been two weeks since my last post, and for that I apologize, much of that time has been consumed by school, and studying for finals. Now that all of that is done, it's time to get back into music! For Christmas, records came my way, four early Columbia's and a Victor! All of them are in fantastic shape for their age, with dates ranging from mid-1901 to one of Leachman's last recording sessions in 1904. These records are all fantastic, and am grateful for having them now.

One of these records was by the Columbia orchestra, in fact the record was a 7 inch of them playing "Harmony Mose" which is a Cake-Walk by Kerry Mills. It's an interesting record, though it must be noted that they didn't have the best intonation. But, there's a reason for this, a valid excuse if you will. This was recorded in a brief period of Columbia's orchestra that was just before Charles Prince took over the orchestra. Prince pretty much overhauled the entire group, not considering those who had been veterans of Issler's orchestra twelve years before then. He kept some of the same people, though he didn't realise that he was bringing in rivals of the Columbia orchestra musicians, such as Frank Mazziotta, who was the sole competitor of George Schweinfest, them both being the piccolo extraordinaire for their record companies. Prince brought himself as a rival and competitor to Hylands, since they were both pianists. Of course, we know that Fred Hager was a threat to Hylands' place at the record companies, even Banta's as well. This cartoon below goes well with this statement. 
I drew this last week or so. 
It took a few years for Hager to fully take over much of the orchestra activity at the companies Banta and Hylands worked for, this took until about 1905-1906, two years after Banta died. Prince created his "new and improved" version of the Columbia orchestra in 1903, with better intonation, more musicians, traded out musicians, and slicker arrangements. Unfortunately, the slicker arrangements didn't mean for better arrangements. This actually meant for more conservative Rag-Time, which is unacceptable from my standpoint. This is exactly why I sort of hate Prince, because he rid of the Rag-Time style that the Columbia Orchestra was so well-known for in the late-1890's. Prince pretty much threw all of that away in 1903 and 1904. He not only made the arrangements less complicated, but less ragged, and that's where I draw the line, once you take the charm away from the most interesting House orchestra of the late-1890's, you've killed it. Unfortunately, that's exactly what Prince did, and it didn't help that he won the respect of both Spencer's. Winning the respect of the Spencer's meant that Len cut the final string in his friendship with Hylands, of which he had been doing since 1900, and made it worse every coming year. 
Prince did improve the intonation of the orchestra, since there were some pretty bad takes by them in the year just before he came along, but again, the Ragged aspect was dramatically diminished. By 1903, we no longer hear recordings like this one from later-1901, which is very unfortunate, since the piano playing almost leading the entire band was among the best things about them, before Prince made it his orchestra. Hylands oftentimes did what Banta did in Edison's orchestra, played different rhythms under the rest of the orchestra. The record in the link just above is a great example of this, and more of a strange one in fact. Even their recordings that weren't Ragged were fun to listen to, with their strange sound effects, shouts from the Spencer's, and the overall atmosphere is just very Columbia. The old group had a demeanor to them that was like none of the other house orchestras of the time period. You can't go wrong with their 1902 take of "The Darkey Tickle", even if their intonation isn't really the best, it's still fantastic, and classic for Columbia. Just as classic as their "The village Orchestra" from 1899. That is one of my favourite early orchestra recordings, simply from how weird and comical it happens to be. It's like they're purposely making fun of how their orchestra wasn't really that great, but then also fantastic all the same. The thing that was so unique about them was the fact that they actually went out as a group and performed at lavish functions. Now that's something that Edison and Zon-O-Phone didn't do, and as well as Prince once he took over Columbia's orchestra and band. Hope you now understand my almost hatred of Prince, since there's a lot more to dislike about him than just on the surface. It doesn't matter if he was born in San Francisco, or that he was descended from American founding father John Adams. 

Now to move to another subject, composer Monroe H. Rosenfeld:
After having a long talk with Charlie Judkins this evening, we entered into the world of the brilliant and sly Monroe Rosenfeld. There's a whole lot under the surface of this man's name on so many pieces of iconic music from the 1880's to the early 1910's, this man was extremely weird and bright, much to the likeness of Len Spencer. Many tales of his strange doings went around New York in the 1890's, and got into many newspapers, which is why so many stories about him survive. 
As it turns out, Rosenfeld was a fervent gambler, and this was actually a strange story. Rosenfeld would pitch ideas to all sorts of musical friends of his, usually younger and not so famous in the music community. Once he got the idea shoved into their thoughts, they would write down the music, and after the other man wrote it down, he would slap his name on the piece and sell it to multiple publishers in town to publish the piece. He would take half the money with him and give the other half to the man who he pitched the idea to in the first place. Just after that, he would go out to the racetrack and lose all the money on a loser horse. This was something that he did frequently, but of course, he was writing music all the time, and having others do this with him, so he always had money to go out and lose. 

But since he sold the pieces to multiple publishers in the same area, this caused fights and confusion among the firms. At some points these scams got him into trouble. Most of the time, he was able to outrun the authorities, but one of these times, he lost his head. While getting chased around by the police, he had no means of escape, his last resort came to running up the stairs of a building and jumping out of a second- story window. This didn't do him well as you could have guessed. This left him partially crippled, with a weird limp the rest of his life. Remember that this was all for selling a song that was only partially his to more than one publisher. Recall that this was the chap who coined the term "Tin Pan Alley", and he practically created the atmosphere for this era, beginning with his horrid scams and stunts. Just goes to show how much he wanted his money, just to go and gamble it. 

Rosenfeld made a deal With Len Spencer in the mid-1890's as we know, and it seems that since they were both relatively similar, they probably got along finely. In fact, it's likely they the met at an upscale club. That is the sort of places that Rosenfeld played at when he wasn't off scamming the publishers. Just the same, Spencer would be one to frequent those kinds of places, when he wasn't making thousands of rounds a week, or getting into fights with drunkards. They likely made whatever deal it was at one of these clubs, which is a fantastic thing to picture. How Rosenfeld was a strange yet interesting character. 

To close off for now, here are two different takes of Rosenfeld's "I Don't Care if You Never Comes Back" by Len Spencer and Fred Hylands. 
Notice that on both of the takes, Spencer announces the title as "I don't Care if she never comes back". That's a little strange. 

This is the take where Hylands practically quotes "The Harlem Rag" by Tom Turpin in his solo at the very end.
This take is just as interesting at the last one, just that there's not 20 second of Rag-Time at the end. It seems that Spencer could make Rosenfeld's pieces just as fun and wild as the composer. Wonder if Spencer ever sang this tune with Rosenfeld on piano...

Sorry it's been so long since my last post... There will be a post tomorrow, just to make up for the time that was passed since the last post. 

Hope you enjoyed this! 

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