Liner Note Authors: Frederick P. Williams; Seth B. Winner.
Recording information: 04/05/1901-03/13/1911.
Photographers: Frederick P. Williams; Paul Bierley.
Although Arthur Pryor's reissued recordings have cropped up piecemeal here and there on ragtime, cakewalk, and early 20th century band compilations since the LP era, shockingly few CDs have been released under his name. The first of these, Crystal's Arthur Pryor, Trombone Soloist of the Sousa Band, appeared in 1997. As the title implies, the collection focuses largely upon Pryor's slip-horn virtuosity, not only when backed by the Sousa and Pryor bands, but also by way of the intimacy associated with chamber or parlor music. Even those who have heard of Pryor and enjoyed his numerous large ensemble recordings will likely be surprised by the trombone/piano duet interpretations of Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home," a medley of "Parisian Melodies," and a very unusual reading of Arthur Clifton's "We Won't Go Home Until Morning," which sounds something like "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" or "The Bear Went Over the Mountain." The trombonist plays it through in four descending octaves, proceeding so slowly that the whole exercise takes on a somewhat bizarre pallor. As for the backing bands, they often sound very similar to those that accompanied opera singers like Enrico Caruso and Hippolyte Belhomme. Speaking of Caruso and Italian music, Pryor performs a lovely rendition of Giuseppe Verdi's "Celeste Aida," some airs from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci, and two movements from Rossini's "Stabat Mater"; the "Inflammatus" and "Cujus Animam." Several of Pryor's original compositions are featured here (although "A Whistler and His Dog" is markedly absent); the slow and majestic "Forever, Intermezzo," and two dazzling showcases for his intricate technique, "The Patriot" and "Blue Bells of Scotland." Pryor, whose face was partly paralyzed early in life after he was kicked in the face by a mule, rose to national prominence with John Philip Sousa during the 1890s, assembled his own band in 1903, and cut an enormous number of phonograph records while the recording industry was still in its infancy. While very few of these have found their way into digitally formatted availability, Crystal's Arthur Pryor, Trombone Soloist of the Sousa Band and Archeophone's Echoes from Asbury Park (2006) are both excellent anthologies devoted to his artistry. The two albums may co-exist in anyone's private stash as they only have one title in common: Pryor's own "Polka Fantastic." ~ arwulf arwulf