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From Avenue A to the Great White Way

From Avenue A to the Great White Way

In one fell swoop, Sony's Legacy archives have corrected a grave injustice, making available a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century Jewish music heretofore enjoyed only by those endowed with 78 rpm phonographs. The bustling activity in New York's Yiddish theater district, the Lower East Side, birthed some of the finest voices, actors, and writers of the early 20th


In one fell swoop, Sony's Legacy archives have corrected a grave injustice, making available a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century Jewish music heretofore enjoyed only by those endowed with 78 rpm phonographs. The bustling activity in New York's Yiddish theater district, the Lower East Side, birthed some of the finest voices, actors, and writers of the early 20th century, from cantor Yossele Rosenblatt to singer Eddie Cantor and songwriters Sholom Secunda and Irving Berlin. Two discs and 50 tracks capture the music's breadth, from the sublime -- Rosenblatt's heavenly hit "V'Hakohanim" -- to the ridiculous -- David Medoff's answer-song "Gevald! Di Bananas" -- with wonders and novelties in between. To novices, this may have all the makings of a trip to Grandma's house minus the ruggelach, but the range of musical expression here is revelatory, as the busy songsmiths dashed off Yiddish rejoinders to popular American songs and catchphrases such as "Yes, Sir, She's My Baby" and "The Sheik of Araby" (which became "The Sheik of Avenue B"). There was also a vogue for troubling anthems of self-deprecation in the "Hebe songs," a particularly Jewish kind of minstrelsy, documented here as well. But Jewish success in America was mirrored in the music, too, as crossover songs and performers contributed to the Yiddishizing of American entertainment. The second disc revels in such flush material, including the megahit "Bie Mir Bist Du Schon" and the raft of Yiddish-inspired jazz and Broadway hits, from Benny Goodman's "And the Angels Sing" (after an Abe Schwartz klezmer number) to Cab Calloway's Jewish-jiving "Utt-Da-Zay (That's the Way)" to Xavier Cugat's "The Wedding Samba." Those who haven't heard this music in decades will be thrilled by the selection and fidelity, while those who grew up hearing about Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, and Belle Baker will be able to at last appreciate this chapter in American Jewish experience. Yiddish translations would have been nice, but whaddya want -- everything?

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
This carefully selected and sequenced compilation of music from the Sony Music vaults traces the influence of Jewish theater music on American popular music. Over half of it consists of songs sung in Yiddish; the rest display the impact of such songs on the mainstream in the first half of the 20th century. Yiddish stars like David Medoff, Molly Picon, Peisachke Burstein, and Abe Moskowitz have several selections early on, and some of them show that the intermingling of the Yiddish theater and Tin Pan Alley was not a one-way street. Burstein's "Whoopee" comments on the popular 1920s song "Makin' Whoopee," which had been introduced by Eddie Cantor in the Broadway musical Whoopee, while Medoff's "Gevald! Di Bananas (Help! The Bananas)" is a comic gloss on "Yes! We Have No Bananas." The 1930s hit "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (To Me You Are So Beautiful)" was famously adapted from a Yiddish theater song; it is presented here in a cover version by Belle Baker that competed with the most popular one by the Andrews Sisters. The second disc tends more toward English lyrics and performers who looked beyond Jewish audiences. Particularly notable are two previously unreleased recordings by Al Jolson that seem only barely relevant. (Jolson was Jewish, but more removed than such peers as Cantor and Fanny Brice from the influence of Yiddish music.) By the end of the disc, there are examples of Yiddish-styled songs from swing bands like those led by Benny Goodman (whose clarinet, in this context, is highly reminiscent of klezmer music) and Gene Krupa. Still, the influence is clear, for instance, as "Der Shtiller Bulgar (The Quiet Bulgar)" can be recognized as the source for the swing era hit "And the Angels Sing." The album is a historical document that is also highly listenable.

Product Details

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Irving Berlin   Vocals
Dave Tarras   Clarinet
Buster Bailey   Clarinet
Mildred Bailey   Vocals
Danny Barker   Guitar
Cab Calloway   Leader,Vocals
Xavier Cugat   Violin
Roy Eldridge   Trumpet
Benny Goodman   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Jolson   Vocals
John Kirby   String Bass
Gene Krupa   Drums,Leader
Russ Morgan   Trombone,Leader
Mel Powell   Piano
Muggsy Spanier   Cornet
Joe Venuti   Violin
Teddy Wilson   Piano
Charlie Shavers   Trumpet
Cozy Cole   Drums
Sam Donahue   Tenor Saxophone
Ted Lewis   Clarinet,Leader,Vocals
Lou McGarity   Trombone
Vido Musso   Tenor Saxophone
Frank Crumit   Vocals
Sophie Tucker   Vocals
Eddie Cantor   Vocals
Mitch Miller   French Horn,Oboe
Fanny Brice   Vocals
Slim Gaillard   Guitar,Vocals
Russell Procope   Alto Saxophone
Robert Burns   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Aaron Lebedeff   Vocals
Molly Picon   Vocals
Menasha Skulnik   Vocals
Mario Bauzá   Trumpet
Bill Beason   Drums
George Berg   Tenor Saxophone
Georg Brunis   Trombone
Doc Cheatham   Trumpet
Ralph Collier   Drums
Cutty Cutshall   Trombone
Abraham Ellstein   Piano
Milt Hinton   String Bass
Keg Johnson   Trombone
Claude Jones   Trombone
Nate Kazebier   Trumpet
Billy Kyle   Piano
John Lucas   Drums
Jimmy Maxwell   Trumpet
Loumell Morgan   Piano
Sam Musiker   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Floyd O'Brien   Trombone
Benny Payne   Piano
Hubert Pettaway   Drums
Bernie Privin   Trumpet
Milt Raskin   Piano
Bob Snyder   Alto Saxophone
O'Neill Spencer   Drums
Walter Thomas   Tenor Saxophone
Tom Morgan   Electric Guitar
Sid Weiss   String Bass
Priest Wheeler   Trombone
Lammar Wright   Trumpet
Alvin Davis   Trumpet
Harry Barth   String Bass
John Collis   Guitar
Tony Gerhardi   Guitar
Kenneth Hollon   Tenor Saxophone
Hymie Wolfson   Tenor Saxophone
Clint Neagley   Alto Saxophone
Dalton Rizzotto   Trombone
Mascagni Ruffo   Alto Saxophone
Billy Jones   Vocals
Carl Prager   Bass Clarinet
Ray Biondi   Guitar
Sol Kane   Alto Saxophone
Louis Martin   Alto Saxophone,Baritone Saxophone
Reggie Merrill   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Art Ralston   Baritone Saxophone
Sammy Shapiro   Violin
Belle Baker   Vocals
Emery Deutsch   Violin,Leader
Nathan Glantz   Leader,Alto Saxophone
Ernest Hare   Vocals
Willie Howard   Vocals
Irving Kaufman   Vocals
Benny Goodman & His Orchestra   Track Performer
Cab Calloway & His Orchestra   Track Performer
Gene Krupa & His Orchestra   Track Performer
Russ Morgan & His Orchestra   Track Performer
Xavier Cugat & His Orchestra   Track Performer
Emery Deutsch & His Orchestra   Track Performer
Nathan Glantz & His Orchestra   Track Performer
Gene Kardos & His Orchestra   Accompaniment
Pete Peterson   String Bass
Seymour Rechtzeit   Track Performer
Phil Wall   Piano
Nan Wynn   Vocals
Dave Klein   Trumpet
Ted Shapiro   Piano
Eddie Powell   Flute
Sholom Secunda   Leader
Sherman   Trombone
Horace Rollins   String Bass
Peisachke Burstein   Vocals
Nellie Casman   Vocals
Jack Aaronson   Piano
Abbe Lane   Vocals
Ray Cameron   Trumpet
Chauncey Houghton   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Yacht Club Boys   Track Performer
William McLeish Smith   String Bass
Jack Muntz   Trumpet
Cyril Newman   Trumpet
Joseph Moskowitz   Cymbalom
Julian Rose   Vocals
Annie Lubin   Vocals
Abe Schwartz   Violin,Leader

Technical Credits

Xavier Cugat   Director
Mel Powell   Arranger
Ziggy Elman   Composer
Irving Mills   Composer
Alec Wilder   Arranger
Buck Ram   Composer
Johnny Mercer   Composer
Chappie Willett   Arranger
Adler   Contributor
Sam Blank   Tom Overdubs
Michael Brooks   Reissue Producer
Henry Sapoznik   Reissue Producer
Arthur Levy   Executive Producer
Sholom Secunda   Composer
Allan Small   Composer
Cahn - Chaplin   Composer
Abe Schwartz   Director

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