Blue Guitars, Vols. 1 & 2
Two virtuoso guitarists are featured alone, together and with a small cast of supporting players on the 1998 BGO double-album reissue compilation Blue Guitars, Vols. 1 & 2. Philadelphia native Salvatore Massara, known professionally as Eddie Lang (1902-1933) and New Orleans' own Alonzo Johnson, who worked under the name Lonnie Johnson (1899-1970) both played blues and jazz guitar about as naturally as most people manage to breathe. On approximately ten of the classic recordings assembled here, Lang masqueraded as "Blind Willie Dunn" in order to conceal the fact that theirs was a racially mingled act at a time when the recording industry was still segregated. Traversing the weave of examples from both men's careers, one is struck by the refreshing diversity of moods and textures. In addition to the Italian-American Massaro/Lang's rendition of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in C Sharp Minor," there are piano accompaniments by Arthur Schutt, Frank Signorelli, and Rube Bloom, as well as interactions with the Louis Armstrong band and a couple of friendly run-ins with homicidal blues growler Texas Alexander. It's a fine and variegated parcel of classic blues and jazz featuring two of the most inspired and adept guitarists active in the United States of America during the first half of the 20th century.