Monday, February 13, 2012

The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street

The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street was a weekly radio program that began on NBC's Blue Network in 1940.  (The National Broadcasting Company originally had two radio networks, the Red and the Blue; the latter was sold off in 1942 and became the American Broadcasting Company - ABC - in 1945.)  The show featured some of the finest jazz musicians of the day, and had two resident bands (which shared the same rhythm section) - Henry Levine's Dixieland Octet, whose leader was a former member of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and Paul Laval's Woodwindy Ten.  On the Society's debut album, which I present here, Levine's group was rechristened the "Barefooted Dixieland Philharmonic" - although, as can be seen in the slightly coffee-stained picture, the members are not only very much shod, but periwigged!  For the Society's offerings, broadcast and recorded, were usually presented in a mock-serious format that poked fun at the stuffy classical music presentations of the day.  The album even comes with a booklet mimicking those of the Victor Musical Masterpiece Series, with tongue-in-cheek analyses of each song (a PDF file of this booklet is included with the download).

NBC's Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street
1. Mood Indigo (with Dinah Shore)
2. Muskrat Ramble (with Sidney Bechet)
3. Runnin' Wild
4. Dinah's Blues (with Dinah Shore)
5. Shoemaker's Holiday
6. Basin Street Blues
Recorded November 11, 1940
Victor set P-56, three 10" 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 65.08 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 40.36 MB)

For me, the last three sides are the most enjoyable.  "Dinah's Blues" manages to work into its lyrics the names of the show's two corporate sponsors, NBC and its parent, RCA Victor; "Shoemaker's Holiday" is a delightful romp featuring the bassoon, and this arrangement of "Basin Street Blues," with its ending that spoofs Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony (the bass being the instrument left to finish the piece "in the doghouse, but good"), was apparently also the ending number on every broadcast.


  1. what a find! A pleasure to listen after a heavy diet of Mahler!
    Many thanks for all the wonderful music you share.

  2. FanTAStic blog, great post. Thanks a bunch.

  3. I saw your blog and hope you can help. I went to an estate sale and picked up the Brahms symphony No4 in E minor conducted by Serge Koussevitzky at the Boston Symphony by Victor Records. It's a 5 record collection and has a similar cover style to the one in this post. I don't have a record player, but have become interested in collecting for the beauty and because I'm a piano teacher. It has the program stapled to the inside front cover with explainations of the movements and the composer, but nothing about the date it was recorded. The records are also super heavy and the first one in the album has designs on the front of the record. They had a Beethoven and Bizet I'm thinking about buying as well. Do you think those are good additions to my collection?

    1. I would certainly get them, if the records aren't broken. That Brahms set was recorded over three different days: Novemebr 30 and December 3, 1938, and November 8, 1939. The record you describe as having "designs" is that way because it's a single-sided record; only nine sides were required for that symphony so the last side is blank with the design embossed in, instead of grooves.

  4. Beautiful transfers of these 78s. Dinah Shore must have been nervous as hell with giants like Bechet standing near by. Nevertheless, her "Mood Indigo" is a highlight. Maybe you should put your magic touch to Lee Wiley. Thanks for the diversity of delights!

  5. Wonderful! Thank you so much for posting this!