Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Black Vocal Groups

Today I'll just treat you to three examples of black vocal groups that I found while searching for info on The Three Keys - a black vocal trio featuring George 'Bon Bon' Tunnell (p, voc), Slim Furness (tipple, voc) and Bob Pease (b, voc). The trio was formed by Tunnell in 1931 and recorded 16 sides for Columbia, Brunswick and Vocallion from August 1932 to September 1933. They were featured on radio, had success and played at various clubs in Harlem, NYC - the trio even crossed the Atlantic and gave a concert at London's 'Palladium' in September 1933 shortly before they broke up at the end of that year. George 'Bon Bon' Tunnell later had great success with Jan Savitt's orchestra from 1937-42 as the earliest black male vocalist employed by a white bandleader. Slim Furness formed a quintet with his siblings, The Furness Brothers, that later would accompany Ella Fitzgerald for some time in the early 1940s.

The Three Keys and similar ensembles, like The Spirits Of Rhythm, were all inspired or encouraged by the success of The Mills Brothers. I found a filmed performance by the four brothers that bear all the trademarks of their early style including 'barbershop' harmony singing, vocal imitating of brass instruments and a sophisticated sense of swing

Another black vocal quartet that named themselves The Basin Street Boys had a style more like The Spirits Of Rhythm - Enjoy this performance from 1938

It has been mentioned by some researchers that vocal groups like the above Basin Street Boys generated a certain vocabular, named 'jive', to accenturate the concept and expression of swing. A genuine example of this 'jive' is showed off in Cats And The Fiddle's "Killin' Jive' - enjoy it below!



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