Ed Vasicek's Site
Music of the 1920's and 30's Authentically Played Today
A lot of people do not realize that popular jazz reigned throughout the 1920's and the first half of the 1930's, BEFORE Swing, which is in itself a form of jazz.
The popular jazz of the 20's and 30's was often smaller band (maybe 8- 10 instruments average). It was subdivided into two main categories:
Hot Jazz (think the Charleston), descending from New Orleans Jazz, and Sweet (aka "Symphonic") Jazz (think Cheek to Cheek), which was jazz with symphonic elements to it. Rhapsody in Blue was on the symphonic edge of Symphonic (sweet) jazz. Many sweet jazz groups used a violin or two with some more classical-sounding relief here or there. Jazz sweetened more so in the early 30's, often attributed to the melancholic spirit of the Depression.
Although I do enjoy Swing music to some degree, my love is the music of the 20's and early 30's. Many of those songs have lived on as permanent parts of our culture. Many Swing songs were remakes of 20's and 30's songs, as were later remakes (like "Mack the Knife," for example, which was originally a 20's song).
Although the original groups were most amazing, the quality of recording was not very good. So I prefer groups that play this music (authentically) in our day. And there are plenty of them. Even though some of this music was popular 100 years ago, the music itself is so amazing that it still has a significant following. Here are some links to some of my favorite groups. Needless to say, the CDs from these groups sound better than Youtube clips.
These are some of the many groups. You can find a lot more music, plus sources for CDs or MP3 downloads via a little searching online.
1. Alex Mendham and his orchestra not only are musically amazing, they have an unusual touch of class hard to find in our day. Of course, they are British, that doesn't hurt. They exemplify the sweet jazz that was most popular in 20's and 30's. This song, "He's the Last Word" was video recorded in 2017 with an old "technicolor" look for atmosphere. Find it HERE!
2. The Bratislava Hot Serenaders out of Slovakia are one of the very best in our day, mostly sweet jazz. Here is their version of "Sunday," a symphonic jazz arrangement. They have the most amazing cornet/trumpet player. You can find links to many of their works by searching Youtube and the internet. Find the link HERE!
3. Although Barbara Rosene (the best female popular singer of all time, IMO) does jazz beyond the 1920's and 30's, it is my favorite. Here is a link to the 20's song (on the border between hot and sweet jazz), "Fit As A Fiddle." Find it HERE! This is just the song, but the sound quality is better than typical Youtube vids. You can see her singing a slow "blues" song from the era, "Am I Blue?" HERE!
4. The Avalon Jazz band plays "Gypsy Jazz," which is string centered and comes from the French Gypsy named Django. Tatianna sings beautifully the French song, "Le Mer," but you might recognize its English version, "Somewhere Beyond the Sea." Violin plays a crucial role in Gypsy Jazz. Find the link HERE!
5. Don Neely's, "Royal Society Jazz Orchestra" has been a leader in the field for decades. They still play, though this video is from the 1990's. Don is also an entertainer. Here is a link to "The Sheik of Araby" in which he plays the saw. Novelty instruments and songs were popular in the 1920's. Find it HERE!
6. I loved the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. This is what mainstream younger Americans went wild for in the 20s. They were about as popular in the 1920s as the Beatles were in the 1960s. Keith Nichols (from the UK) has put out a lot of CDs (do an online search to find them -- they are great). But here he is conducting the "New Paul Whiteman Orchestra" which, to my knowledge, never produced a CD. This gives you a feel as to what the "Cadillac" of 1920's sweet bands would have been like. Find the link HERE! Try another one HERE!
7. For many years, the San Francisco Starlight Orchestra was pretty close to the Whiteman sound. They still play, but are not producing any new music. Their CDs are still available. Get a taste of them HERE!
8. One of the best bands is from Slovakia (the Bratislava Hot Serenaders). Next door, in the Czech Republic, we have the talented Ondrej Havelka and His Melody Makers. On occasion, members of the Hot Serenaders stop by to help. Both groups sing mostly in English, but also do a fair share of Czech and Slovak jazz numbers from the era, although he gets into the Swing era a lot as well. Find an example of a Swing arrangement of "Blue Skies": HERE!
9. Janet Kline is a modern day Flapper. She has a special knack to do Fanny Brice numbers. But here, she explains a bit about the 1920's Ukulele crazy as she plays and sings "I Love A Ukulele" HERE!
10. Mora's Modern Rhythmists play music of the 20s, 30s, and 40s -- mostly pre-Swing or EARLY Swing. This is a long one, so mover the cursor around till you find a song you like. At 51:46, you can hear "Moanin' Low," a late 20's number. Find that and more HERE.
11. Gunhild Carling is a modern marvel. She is from Sweden, and was the featured entertainer for the King's 70th Birthday Celebration. Her family joins her as members of the small band. She plays music from the 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond, but she mostly sticks to 20s-40s. She frequently does live Youtube concerts and tours the U.S. often. You can find a lot online. In this selection, Gunhild doesn't sing (not sure if the singer is a younger sister or daughter; in some vids, her dad plays clarinet). Gunhild plays the trumpet. Check out an Abraham Lincoln look-alike playing piano/accordion. Check it out HERE! If you want to see Gunhild play three trumpets AT THE SAME TIME, click HERE.
12. The Charleston Chasers are named after a vintage group from the 20s, so if you want to buy their music, make sure you have the right group. This British group is excellent. This video will give you a feel. The CDs have a better sound quality, needless to say. Click HERE!
These are just a few samples of some of the many bands I listen to; if you should need more names of groups who do this music, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please explain you saw my 20s and 30s bands page and would like more names of bands I would recommend. Otherwise, I will probably think you are spam!