This spring, we’ll be releasing Volume 2 in The Pathé-Perfect Discography, covering the so-called Dance Series (which of course contains a fair amount of outright jazz). The text was completed this week, and we’re projecting a March press date.
Knowing the many errors, omissions, and questionable assumptions that plague previous dance band discographies, we decided to rebuild from the ground up — employing only data that the Record Research group, Bill Bryant, and their trusted associates obtained from first-hand inspection and aural comparison of their virtually complete holdings. What you will see in this discography is exactly what appears on the labels, under the labels, and in the exposed wax, of every issue. Any speculative band or vocalist identifications are clearly disclosed as such, along with explanations of how those decisions were reached.
Pathé-Perfect Volume 2 clearly identifies not only which master (including “assigned” master or control numbers) and true take (as distinct from dubbing numbers and miscellaneous markings that others have mistaken for takes) was used on every issue, but also how those variants relate to one other (identical or alternate masters and takes, unrelated recordings, etc.) — an invaluable feature when it comes to the Cameo and American Record Corporation joint releases.
Previous dance band discographies use a format that fudges the connections — They group corresponding Pathé, Cameo, and / or ARC titles under a common date, suggesting that they’re somehow related (which isn’t always the case, as synchronized comparisons reveal), but offering few concrete details. Thanks to a newly created relational database populated with only reliable first-hand data, we now know that most Pathé–Cameo–ARC joint issues aren’t quite the train-wrecks portrayed in previous works. Pathé-Perfect Volume 2 sorts it all out for you, item-by-item.
When the RR group began this project in the 1950s, records of this type were still cheap and abundant, especially in the New York area where the group was based — a distinct advantage over their foreign counterparts, who were working a continent away from the richest vein of original source material. (If you’ve ever seen the famous photo of Len Kunstadt dwarfed by ceiling-high towers of 78, that’s just a minute portion of their holdings, which eventually filled three buildings). Between them, the members amassed a nearly complete collection of dance-series Pathé, Perfect, and corresponding issues (often in multiple copies) to which they could refer.
The group published a very basic Perfect dance-band listing in Record Research, but then went on to greatly multiply the data, which they largely kept to themselves in anticipation of publishing it in book form. They held regular meetings, over the course of two decades, at which these and many other records were compared simultaneously, using synchronized turntables, to determine corresponding takes, alternates, assigned master numbers, and the like. The results were carefully logged in what they called “SAC” (synchronized aural comparison) reports. Speculation was allowed only as a means to spark discussion and more rigorous investigation. No guesswork ever made it into the final SAC reports.
In the mid-1980s the group turned the project over to Bill Bryant, who began to organize the mass of raw data, fill in the missing pieces (with help from a large group of trusted collectors and dealers), and make the missing connections. Unfortunately, other projects intervened, and despite the headway that Bill made, the work was still unfinished at the time of his sudden death in 1995. Mainspring acquired publication rights in 2011 and now has brought the work up-to-date, including notation of errors, discrepancies, and questionable assumptions found in other currently available dance-band discographies. In addition, data have been added from the surviving ARC ledgers, musicians’ and contractors’ files, the rare Dealers’ Advance Lists, the now largely lost Form 19 cards, and other primary-source materials.