Sissle & Blake Sing Shuffle Along
The Musical Theater Project and Harbinger Records
HCD 3204 (2016)
Sissle & Blake Sing Shuffle Along has been released by The Musical Theater Project and Harbinger Records as HCD 3204 (2016) and is distributed by Naxos.
We first learned of Shuffle Along when we assembled the web page on William Grant Still (1895-1978), the African American composer, arranger, conductor and oboist, at AfriClassical.com, using research generously made available to us by the late Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, who last taught at Lawrence University Conservatory in Appleton, Wisconsin. William Grant Still played oboe in the pit band of Shuffle Along, and made some of its musical arrangements according to Dr. De Lerma.
The website http://harbingerrecords.com/sissle-and-blake/ indicates the new CD is "The only available archival recording of the groundbreaking musical ..."
The website continues: "1921’s all-black musical comedy, Shuffle Along, was the most successful Broadway show of its time. The score contained the future standards “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find a Way.” It marked the emergence of a new black musical theater, and desegregated theatres in New York and across the country."
The current revival of Shuffle Along on Broadway features "Tony Award-winning stars such as Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell," the website relates, and: "The recording features the show’s composers, Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, as well as members of the original cast. This is the show exactly as heard on Broadway in 1921 though many of the cuts were recorded by the composers in 1950, making the sound exemplary."
The CD liner notes provide "A Brief History of Shuffle Along" by Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom. It is actually quite detailed and informative. The last paragraph on Page 5 begins: "The genesis of Shuffle Along began in Philadelphia. Eubie Blake explained how the idea for the show came about: '[Sissle and I] played a benefit for the NAACP in Philadelphia at the colored theatre, the Dunbar... Miller and Lyles, blackface comedians, [were] on the bill. And they stayed to look at our act. [After we met them,] we don't see them anymore and they don't see us. One day, we were coming up Broadway and they were coming down Broadway [at the same time]. Now they were all educated college boys, Miller, Lyles, and Sissle. I was the only dummy of the four. Miller says "Hello there. You birds are the guys we've been looking for. [Will Marion] Cook and all those fellas wrote beautiful music but it wasn't Broadway. You fellas write what Broadway would want and we'd like to write a show with you. We'll write the book and you birds write the music and lyrics." Sissle did the business for us, and that's how we met.'"
The songs which have become standards give the program something of a familiar feel while the overall impression remains that of fresh entertainment which respects the dignity of the characters. We have found it to be thoroughly enjoyable.