This LP introduces an interesting selection of historical Ragtime - or so called "pre-jazz" recordings from Austria, actually from Vienna. This record may be somewhat surprising, considering the fact that Vienna was then the stronghold of waltz and operetta music. Indeed Austria had its first contacts with Afro-American manifestations long before turn of the century. The contemporary playbills of many Viennese (and sometime even provincial playhouses) state an enormous number of American partially coloured, notable artists like Josephine Morcashani, Mason & Dixon, Arabella Fields, Johnson & Dean, The Four Black Diamonds and many others. As early as March 1903 a group called "The 7 Florida Creole Girld" performed Cake Walks at the Ronacher, the most famous Viennese variety theatre. Probably most of those performances were to satisfy curiosity, with musical claims being of secondary importance. None of those artists ever recorded in Vienna.
However, the new type of music was quickly borrowed by local composers and interpreters. Though it never quite lost the "Viennese Accent". Nevertheless, the then popular music gradually became americanized. Finally just operettas, i.e. operetta-influenced revues played the major role in amalgamating traditional with modernistic trends. In 1903, for example, Ernst Reiterer composed a "Cake Walk" as an entre-act for "Frühlingsluft", an operetta based on Josef Strauss motifs. Another pretty dashing Cake Walk by the Austrian composer Josef Klein (1870-1933) must have been part of a ballet suite.
On October 29th, 1900 Danzer's Orpheum was re-opened with the spectacular show "Venus auf Erden". Even here we stumble on a syncopated US-song: "Susi"; the German lyrics refer to polka-dancing. Needless to say that the genuine stuff was very often diluted from these customs. Even guest performers made such concessions to suit the audience's rather sluggish taste. The latter may be adequately illustrated by "Zamona". The words point out some "exotic" or "unculturated" aspects which were thought to be connected with the new music.
On the other hand, singing By Watermelon Vine should encourage the operetta tenor Eric Ferdinand Stein to imitate American vaudeville singers. The label notes boldly: "Englische Aufnahme" (="English Recording").
Brass and military music popularized Anglo-American music, in our country, too. A wide range of respective tunes was suitable for brass-band arrangements and soon became part of the repertory of Austrian Imperial Regimental bands. This appies to Meine Lilly and to standars like Hiawatha and topmost important Alexander Ragtime.
In 1910 Dr. Phillip Silber put together an orchestra which was to play exclusively at the "Erste Internationale Jagdausstellung". Doubtless this exhibition promoted the waxing of American music. Otherwise Silber's stalwarts would not have been immortalized on Austrian Premier Record (Eine vergnügte Negerhochzeit).
Even folkloristic bands joined the new craze. An anonymous gipsy band gives reference to this with its sensitively interpreted "Negro Lullaly: My Curly Headed Baby" (Mein Baby).
But we shall be given a more general idea of what was the Viennese audience's musical taste of that period by listening to the repertory of the so-called "Salonkapellen". Those bands recorded mainly folk music. Apart from that they also provided few but charming reords with Ragtime or semi-Ragtime music. The following bands enjoyed the greatest popularity: the band of the Brüder Geiger (The Robert, My Yankee Doodle Boy, Smiles), the Kapelle Robert Hügel (Cake Walk, The Gertrude Hoffman Glide, When The Midnight Choo Choo
) and Alfred Himmel, who contributes Bobby Jazz, an obscure, still fascinating tune by Robert Stolz. The composition itself is interesting and is a typical example for early "Viennese Jazz". The word "Jazz" appears here for the very first time on an Austrian record label.
But Austria had no "Golden Jazz Age" in usual sense. Maybe the Austrian prehistory of Jazz easily makes one expect more than what really happened. This is true especially for the most Austrian bands that played between the two wars. (Though a good number of foreign bands often played superior jazz music in this country).
Nevertheless, all those documents compiled on this LP do represent pioneer work in developing a characteristic Austrian-coloured brabd of modern, sometimes jazzy dance-music, which was to become later the basis of the Jazz-scene in this country.
This fact may push the rather late and unusual recordings of Black And White into the categories of mere musical oddness. None the less, this last recording serves as an outstanding example of a really odd but witty, sparkling thrilling musical curiosity.
Liner notes to the LP Ragtime unter dem Doppeladler 1901-1928 (RST 90284251), 1988