The presentation of this CD is a trifle misleading. These are not recordings of the "Dark Angel of the Violin", as Paul Whiteman dubbed Eddie South, but rather a collection of yesteryear songs done in the violinist's style. Though rarely remarked upon any more, South was lionized in his day and even recorded with Django, Grapelli, and others. More then a few string raspers have acknowledged their deep debt to the black gent who was never quite able to break through the color barrier and attain to his rightful place. The Music of Eddie South, then, repairs a bit of that by doing homage via a quartet fronted by violinist Jeremy Cohen, himself no small name, having appeared on many film soundtracks; on CD with Santana, John Williams, and others; and in name gigs as concertmaster to Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt, Cleo Laine, and so on.
Cohen's tone is pitch perfect, pristine while echoing the hummingbird flights South was capable of, tracing elaborate staves in a clear sky. The recording is indited in such a way as to give the impression of emanating from a bayou speakeasy or perhaps a brothel: spacious, informal, airy, the piano echoey while the borders of the hall can be heard as the gents play away. The dynamic range is suppressed to a noticeable degree, but I have to suspect this was purposeful in order to infuse period flavor. Jim Kerwin keeps a bouncy pace on the contrabass, Harold Jones backing him in rhythm duties with a tiny often understated drum kit.
The rime of age is evident throughout The Music of Eddie South, a sage nod to Eddie South's true purview, modernisms eschewn in favor of authenticity, and there's a ton of that particular quality everywhere, in ballads, proto-bop, Dixieland, nothing excluded. Granted, pianist Larry Dunlap waxes a bit Ferrante & Teischer-esque here and there, most apparently in Yesterdays, but it can't be denied that F&T got their antecedents from South's era as well (hell, you can hear it even in the old Marx Bros. and Three Stooges music materials!). Cohen is the clear star on this disc, but I think had guitarist Dix Bruce been given more room to solo, the sessions would have had twice the swing they already evince, as that guy's lines are drop-dead sparkling.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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