Monday, November 1, 2010

Noble Sissle and The Sizzling Syncopaters

Noble Sissle and His Band from Ciro's Club
The noun "soundies" seems to originate in 1941 with the company that built & distributed Mills Panoram Jukeboxes.

A soundie was, then, a three-minute music-film played on visual jukeboxes, though in reality these films were also batched together in sets of three to show as one-reel shorts in theaters, & to sell to the 8 mm & 16 mm home projector market, so "soundie" came to mean any music-oriented film short of a full-blown feature-length musical.

But in the black community "soundies" was used to mean a short film anywhere from three minutes to an hour but usually one or two reels (ten or twenty minutes) with all-black casts, & by extension any musical-short without race reference.

Whether this use of the word developed after the Panoram soundies appeared in the 1940s, or whether the Mills Panoram company latched onto pre-existent street slang, is probably unknowable. In any case the antecedants to the soundies, like the short-short Vitagraph music-films & a plethora of one-reelers, are in essence also soundies.

"Noble Sissle & His Band from Ciro's Club & of Radio & Gramaphone Fame" (1930) is a three-minute British Pathetone, precursor to the jukebox soundies of the 1940s. Pathetones of this vintage were filmed on location, so this really is at Ciro's.

Sissle is out in front of The Sizzling Syncopaters. He's slim & youthful, singing ragtime in his sweet high voice:
"The moon was all aglow
And heaven was in your eyes
The night that you told me, those little white lies
The stars they seemed to know
That you didn't mean all those sighs
The night that you told me, those little white lies."
I absolutely love Sissle singing this.

As Noble finishes the lyrics for "Little White Lies," the trumbone & sax trade off on soloing through the instrumental break. Then without missing a beat we're into a second song.

Drummer Jack Carter leaps up to sing a rapid rendition of "Happy Feet" at the back of the band. For close, tuba player Edward Coles rushes up front to tapdance a fine example of the aforementioned happy feet.
- Weird Realm Reviews

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