Boswell Sisters – Storyville Volume 5 (of 5)


review-storyville-5This is the final volume of Storyville/Nostalgia Arts’ definitive five-disc retrospective of The Boswell Sisters. If you’ve gotten this far, you are likely aware that this series collects all of The Boswell Sisters’ unique and wonderful commercial recordings and presents them with superb sound restoration by the peerless John R.T. Davies. This series is, hands down, the best way to collect the exhilarating and innovative music of Martha, Connie, and Vet.

This volume, like the others, features the likes of The Dorsey Brothers, Manny Klein, and Bunny Berrigan, as well as Artie Shaw and Jimmie Grier. As usual, sister Martha displays her fine piano skills on most sides, and Connie leads the way with her truly inspired vocals and arrangements. There are many stellar tunes here, and while I can’t possibly do justice to all of them, I’d still like to mention a few. The Boswell’s hot “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” is a great take on the Irving Berlin classic, with those patented Boswell harmonies as electrifying as ever. Interestingly, Connie Boswell and Bing Crosby later recorded a hit duet of the tune for charity, which in turn brought back the Boswell version, which also became a hit…long after sisters Martha and Vet had retired from show biz. As a matter of fact, this disc nearly amounts to an Irving Berlin tribute, with several other great versions of Berlin tunes, including “Top Hat, White Tie And Tails,” “Cheek To Cheek,” “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket,” and the red-hot “Let Yourself Go.” This volume also features the work of other fine composers, including W.C. Handy’s classic “St. Louis Blues,” and Johnny Mercer’s depression-era fantasy, “If I Had A Million Dollars,” (also performed by the sisters in the Jack Benny film “Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round”). From the team of Dubin-Warren we have “Coffee In The Morning (alternate take)”, and “Lullaby Of Broadway,” the latter featuring a remarkable unison hum with perfectly synchronized vibrato. Also great is the hot and catchy “Darktown Strutter’s Ball,” on which the Boswells toy not only with the tempo, but actually fit in a rumba beat. Latin rhythms appear again, and more prominently, on the giddy “Don’t Let Your Love Go Wrong.” “Travelin’ All Alone” is a sad lament with delicate harmonizing, and “Dinah” is a sweet & hot classic accompanied only by Martha’s piano and the brilliant guitar work of Bobby Sherwood. The last six songs feature a young Artie Shaw, and on the impossibly catchy “The Music Goes ‘Round And Around,” Connie calls out to each soloist, saying to Mr. Shaw, “Come on Clarinet, break it down!,” and he does break it down, as do all the brilliant musicians on these dazzling recordings.

This is a fitting finale to a landmark series, and a superb tribute to the greatest and most innovative jazz vocal group of all time, The Boswell Sisters. Don’t miss out.

Reviewed by Harley

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