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Feature Review: Anthologie des Musiques du Monde de Dance, Volume 1: Europe et Amérique du Nord

Various Artists
Anthologie des Musiques du Monde de Dance, Volume 1: Europe et Amérique du Nord
[Frémeaux and Associés (2011)]

With this 10 CD box, Frémeaux and Associés attempt nothing less than an audio survey of dance musics of North America and Europe from the first 60 years of the 20th century. In what must have been a Herculean licensing effort, they bring together many familiar tracks by major label artists with a wealth of relative obscurities.

The first four volumes primarily highlight American dance styles, starting with two discs of jazz dance styles drawn from the prewar (1920-30) and WWII-postwar (1940-1959) eras. Both are good single disc overviews of the most popular dance tunes of their eras. The first disc includes a who’s who of big bands of the era, with the Charleston, the black bottom, and the vastly popular swing among the styles represented. Most of the seminal big bands are included, with tracks including Benny Goodman’s epic “Sing, Sing, Sing” and Duke Ellington’s smooth “Stompy Jones.” The second volume charts the rise of the Lindy hop and boogie, the dynamic, uptempo style that led to rock and roll. This disc again anthologizes familiar tracks, including Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home” and Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.”

The third disc, Slow, focuses on tempo rather than style, bringing in pieces from the big era (Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” and Dinah Washington’s “Cry Me a River”), lots of pop-rock tunes (Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender,” Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill) and R&B (James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please” and Ray Charles’ “Night Time is the Right Time”). The next volume does a reasonable job of anthologizing the birth of rock and roll in the 1950s, with the inevitable contributions from Presley (“Jailhouse Rock”), Chuck Berry (“Maybelline”), Little Richard (“Tutti Frutti”), Eddie Cochran (“Summertime Blues”), and others, but also including some savvy choices like Louis Jordan’s “Caledonia” and Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite.”

Four of the remaining discs focus on waltzes of various flavors, including two (volumes 5 and 6) targeting the distinct Valse Musette, an accordion based style that flourished in Parisian clubs both before, after, and even during the German occupation. Selections here vary from small group pieces to selections performed by full orchestras.

The Viennese Waltz disc (Volume 9) focuses on orchestral versions of this archetypal waltz style drawn from recordings made between the 1930s and 1950s. The final two volumes target primarily European dances played at fast tempos. Disc 7 surveys diverse waltz styles, drawing from performances throughout Europe and North America from the thirties through the fifties. In addition many orchestral waltzes, this disc incluses “Valse du Carousel” (familiar to almost anyone who has ever ridden a merry-go-round) and Tau Moe’s unusual “Trons Heures du Matin,” featuring Hawaiian guitar and ukelele.

The other two discs in the set feature fast dance styles. Volume 7 also focuses on various fast dance styles, most featuring accordions, and encompassing Javas, Polkas, and Mazurkas. Volume 8 covers the Can-Can, including the archetypal “La Gate Parisienne” as well as delving into quadrilles, gallops, and fast polkas. Each disc includes track listings as well as a brief expository essay on the style(s) covered. What is regrettably missing is an expository essay discussing each track in its historical and stylistic content.

However, for those wanting merely to trip the light fantastic, this generous compendium should keep them on their feet for many hours. A 10 disc companion set (not reviewed here) focuses primarily on dances endemic to the southern hemisphere.

—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)

[Ed: Frémeaux stuff can be hard to find. It’s generally best to start at their web site: www.fremeaux.com]

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