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Eddie South: Black Gypsy

People who have a general interest in Eddie South that might not extend to a discography should know of two recent CDs that illuminate important aspects of his career. Both come with excellent notes by Anthony Barnett. Black Gypsy consists of all the recordings made for Victor, Gramophone, and ARC, from 1927 to 1934. There are eight previously unissued tracks, most of which are alternates. For the most part, this is pop fare with some very hot touches. South’s huge sound is heard in tantalizing flashes or leading an ensemble, and he’s also a fine vocalist. When he gets off a real solo it’s always a killer, and one of the previously unheard tracks, “At the Ball,” is an extended showcase that will have the fiddler’s fans turning flips. Other attractions include a couple of unusual Hoagy Carmichael songs and some nice work by guitarist Everett Barksdale.

The Dark Angel of the Violin consists of transcriptions made in 1944 for broadcast rather than commercial release, and again a number of tracks have never before been released. South combines with pianist Billy Taylor, a bassist and sometimes a drummer for a feeling that’s more like the highly arranged small-group jazz of John Kirby than the Stuff Smith Trio of the time. South generally seeks a middle ground between jazz, novelty and light-classical approaches that features a fair amount of hot playing. Listeners who only want real hot jazz will enjoy tracks like “Idaho,” “Rose Room” and the tasty Taylor originals “Dr.Groove” and “Mad Monk.” They may eventually warm up to the virtuosic high jinks of “Marcheta” or “Tzigani in Rhythm.” Jazz violin fans will be over the moon about both of these well-conceived releases.

Originally Published