Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Remembering Eddie Lang

Remembering one of the fathers of jazz guitar,
Eddie Lang

Up to three years ago I hardly knew anything about Eddie Lang. I think it was a Reading-based guitarist who drew my attention to the man whose real name was Salvatore Massaro.

Lang was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 25 1902. His father was a violin and guitar maker and under his influence Eddie picked up a string instrument. He received tuition on violin as a kid and attended the same school with fellow fiddler Joe Venuti. The two became close friends and often worked together later on. (I have some tapes from this collaboration.)

Eddie Lang played violin with a local band and on banjo towards the end of World War I. He was already playing guitar at that time but switched between instruments until the mid-twenties. After a string of shorter engagements, Lang joined the Mound City Blue Blowers in 1924 and visited London with this group. From 1925 onwards, Lang played guitar with numerous quite different bands of all genres and sizes. In 1926 he teamed up with his buddy Joe Venuti again. The two joined Roger Wolfe Kahn's Society Band which played in a style that had little in common with the music Lang recorded under is own name. His most fascinating records were made along side blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson. However, racial segregation prevented this incredible duo from performing in public.

Listen to some 78s with Venuti from David Niven Tapes, covering 1926-27

Eddie Lang had to continue earning his living in commercial bands, but there was an important and more satisfying stint with Paul Whiteman where Venuti and Lang were again united for a longer time.

In 1932 the guitarist worked mainly as accompanist to singer Bing Crosby and one year later, on March 26 1933 in New York City, died from an infection following a tonsil operation.

Jet Black Blues, 1929 [for details see discography below]

In spite of the obscurity loomed large because of an early death, Lang's legacy keep growing (he even wrote the book on jazz guitar in the 1920s.) "His flexible rhythm guitar sparkled with passing tones, chromatic sequences and single-string fills. He played with a firm tone that added harmonic flesh and rhythmic bones to ensembles led by Red Nichols, Frankie Trumbauer, the Dorsey Brothers, Paul Whiteman and Bing Crosby," wrote Downbeat in a recent article about this forgotten master of jazz guitar, which continues by stating "his tendency was toward an even, four-to-the-bar pulse, often with a new chord position, inversion or alteration on every downstroke of the strings."

This David W. Niven tape covers the years 1927 to 1928 of Venuti-Lang recordings

His solo work is sparkling with technical innovations, furthermore he was adaptable, with a deep feeling for the blues and the evidence is his recordings with Lonnie Johnson. Lang's familiarity with classical music is also evident in some of his recordings. No other white guitarist of 1920s and early 1930s came close to him as far as virtuosity is concerned.

This David W. Niven tape covers the years 1929 to 1930 of Venuti-Lang recordings


Classics 1357 1927-1932 Release Date: 2004 Rating: A Other notable musicians in this CD: King Oliver, Lonnie Johnson, Hoagy Carmichael, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Mildred Bailey. Label(s): Okeh, Brunswick Number of sessions: 11 Unissued materials: none Track Highlights: Perfect, Eddie's Twister, Prelude, A Little Love, A Little Kiss Details: Eddie Lang: guitar solos acc. by Arthur Schutt (p)
  • New York, April 1, 1927, Okeh studios
Eddie's Twister April Kisses Eddie Lang: guitar solos
  • New York, May 28, 1927, Okeh studios
Prelude (Rachmaninoff, op. 3, n°2) A Little Love, A Little Kiss Eddie Lang: guitar solos acc. by Frank Signorelli (p)
  • New York, October 21, 1927, Okeh studios
Melody Man's Dream Perfect Eddie Lang: guitar solos acc. by Frank Signorelli (p)
  • New York, March 29, 1927, Okeh studios
Rainbow Dreams Add A Little Wiggle Eddie Lang: guitar solos acc. Rube Bloom (p)
  • New York, September 27, 1928, Okeh studios
Jeannine (I Dream Of Lilac Time) I'll Never Be The Same Eddie Lang: guitar solos acc. Frank Signorelli (p)
  • New York, November 5, 1928, Okeh studios
(Norfolk) Church Street Sobbin' Blues [this one with Justin Ring-chimes] There’ll Be Some Changes Made Blind Willie Dunn's Gin Bottle Four: King Oliver (cornet), J.C. Johnson (p), Eddie Lang (g), Lonnie Johnson (g), Hoagy Carmichael (percussion and scat vocal).
  • New York, May 1, 1929, Okeh studios
Jet Black Blues Blue Blood Blues Ed Lang & His Orchestra: Leo McConville (t), Tommy Dorsey (t-tb), Jimmy Dorsey (cl-as), Arthur Schutt (p), Eddie Lang (g), Joe Tarto (b), Stan King (d).
  • New York, May 22, 1929, Okeh studios
Bugle Call Rag Freeze An'Melt Hot Heels Ed Lang & His Orchestra: Andy Secrest (t), Charlie Margulis (t), Bill Rank (tb), Bernard Daly (as), Charles Strickfaden (as), Izzy Friedman (cl-ts), Henry Whiteman (vn), Hoagy Carmichael(p-cel), Eddie Lang (g), Mike Traf´Čücante (b), George Marsh (d), Mildred Bailey (vocal).
  • New York, October 5, 1929, Okeh studios
What Kind O’ Man ls You? Walkin' The Dog March Of The Hoodlums Eddie Lang: guitar duets with Carl Kress.
  • New York, January 15, 1932, Brunswick studios
Pickin' My Way Eddie Lang: guitar duets with Carl Kress.
  • New York, February 17, 1932, Brunswick studios
Feeling My Way

Feeling My Way, 1932

1 comment:

  1. By the way, has anyone ever noticed that the entire "Chronological" series has a gigantic typo on every single CD in their cover logo format that spells:

    I'm just sayin'