What is the opposite of the blues? Is it the reds?
Not only do The Golden Gate Orchestra sound as if they have never paid any dues, they sound as if they have never even done a decent day’s work in their lives. This lot haven’t got a care in the world between them. But then, there must be a limit to how woebegone you can sound performing songs with titles like “Everything Is Hotsy Totsy Now”, “Along Came Sweetness” and the title track with its chorus of “vododeo, vodododeo, doh”.
This CD of recordings from 1925 to 1929 is a frothy confection. There is no depth to what we hear, but the superficiality they give us is as enjoyable as the occasional milkshake. You wouldn’t want to base your diet on it, but a little sweetness and light relief is welcome every now and them.
The Golden Gate Orchestra was actually the California Ramblers under an alias. (In fact they came from Ohio, but not very far). Their main claim to fame was Adrian Rollini, still probably the best known bass sax player in the world and collaborator with, and peer of, the likes of Bix Beiderbecke and Joe Venuti. This proximity to the Paul Whiteman crowd places it squarely in “the jazz age”, but “jazz” would be a misnomer for this music which is highly arranged and avoids improvisation. You could call it “hot”, but only in the context of white dance bands. The likes of Armstrong, Basie and Lunceford pushed the mercury much further.
You will know some of the songs, like “The Charleston”, “Manhattan” and “Ain’t She Sweet”. Fortunately most are instrumentals. The vocals that there are are mannered in a way that died out with the era. The singer or singers tend to sound as if they are being strangled, or if not, they should have been. The useful notes tell us “a full discography will be posted at www.document-records.com”, but not by November 2007 apparently.
Thanks to Document’s sterling work, the sound is as fresh as tomorrow. This is the ideal music to read “The Great Gatsby” to and, despite my criticisms, it always makes me smile. These guys have got the reds in spades. Or should that be hearts?