Friday, December 27, 2019

Nat Brusiloff and His Orchestra, 1930-1934

Nat Brusiloff, violin virtuoso and dance band conductor, was among the earliest "personality leaders" on network radio. At the peak of his fame, in the early 1930s, he was musical director for Kate Smith's radio program and led hot dance ensembles that broadcast coast-to-coast over the CBS and NBC radio networks. Because he made almost no commercial recordings, his name has slipped into undeserved obscurity. In fact, his name is known primarily to researchers of old-time radio and Kate Smith historians. There has been little written about him in magazines and old-time radio club newsletters and unless I am mistaken, there is no book or biography about Nat Brusiloff (expect for a possible Spanish language biography that may or may not have been published in the U.S.). Yeah, his name has become a tad obscure.

Thankfully, Brusiloff did record several dozen 12-inch 78s for distribution to radio stations, and those extraordinarily rare discs form the basis of this first-ever Brusiloff collection titled NAT BRUSILOFF AND HIS ORCHESTRA: "Out of a Clear Blue Sky" 1930-1934. Scheduled for release in January 2020 (pre-orders now accepted at Amazon.com), I received a complimentary CD set from David Sager, a research assistant in the Recorded Sound Research Center at the Library of Congress, who himself is a Grammy-nominated jazz historian and jazz trombonist. David also happens to be the grandson of Nat Brusiloff, who provides us with a loving tribute and biography in a 48-page illustrated booklet. Not only is the booklet entertaining but provides us with information not available in any reference guide or magazine article. The ultimately tragic story of the musical prodigy makes the recordings on this two-CD set all the more valuable. 

The recordings, by the way, have been lovingly remastered by renowned sound engineer Doug Benson for the best possible sound. The sixteen Judson sides transferred for the first CD were not from commercial master pressings, but transcription discs meant for broadcast.  Restoring audio is complex and time consuming, as any audio engineer will tell you. The condition of some of the original discs were often not good. Pitch drift and double layers of hum were common problems. Some had vocals that were too loud or solos that were too soft in the mix. Overall volume levels often changed throughout the song. Needless to say, as engineer Doug Benson remarked, "it was a balancing act worthy of cirque du Soleil to massage these into a cohesive, presentable package."

Honestly, I found myself enjoying these recordings and not from a historical perspective. Such hot dance numbers of the times are remnant of the type of music that accompanies silent comedy film shorts and the second CD provided a rare treat: a composite of three radio programs from 1931, The Shuron Musical Showmen, which makes me want to seek out the complete broadcasts of that series and listen to them. 

Looking for vintage 1930s music that you will be certain to enjoy? Grab a set today from Amazon or Rivermont Records direct at the link provided below. You can even sample some of the music at this website.

  

1 comment:

kevin said...

thanks for the post

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