A Unusual Version of

Bix Beiderbecke’s

‘In A Mist’

 

By far the strangest version of IN A MIST here was acquired when a classical flute-playing friend of mine, who also collects 78s of flute solos, kindly called and said he had 2 single sided vinyl test pressings he didn’t want. He’d bought them because hand-written on the labels was: ‘Harpsichord and woodwind ensemble’. But when he played them, they sounded more like Jazz, so he offered them to me. He had paid £1 each for them, so without playing them I offered him £2 each, which he initially refused because it was too much! I played a bit of one side. They were obviously (British) Decca tests, but they were dubbed and the quality was very poor. The master numbers were written on the labels and dated to May 1941. It was indeed something like a wind octet, but the harpsichord was obviously a novachord, an early electric keyboard instrument. The piece was of the BACH GOES TO TOWN genre.

I was very busy with gigs at the time and it was a couple of weeks before I got around to playing the other test. 

 

Oh Joy! It was IN A MIST!

 

But who was it by? I sent a tape and full details to Steven Walker, who is a great authority on British Ragtime, Jazz and Dance music. He got Sandy Forbes to check the Decca files, and Behold: the numbers were… blank in the Decca files.

 

The record was certainly never issued, and we don’t know whose group it is or anybody on it! Arthur Young was the main performer on the novachord with Decca at the time, but Steve thinks the playing of the group is not up to the standard of anything that could be associated with Young. Indeed, the poor standard of the playing, especially on IN A MIST is probably the reason the session was rejected. But why the masters should have been poorly dubbed remains a mystery, or why they were never entered in the files. Indeed, whoever cut the dubs did not even bother to lock the run-off groove (by disengaging the cutting head from the feed-screw for just over one revolution before lifting the cutter), so when the pickup gets to the end of the run-off, it carries on across the label.

 

However, at least Steve knew the name of the other tune: MIND, THE HANDEL IS HOT!

 

Since originally writing this, some simple and rather obvious research was prompted by comments on the 78-l by Andrew Homzy and David Lennick. They thought the group's sound was intended to resemble that of the Alec Wilder Octet. I had never heard any of these at the time. Also, I should have looked into the title MIND, THE HANDEL IS HOT in the first place! It was recorded for Decca by Arthur Young with Hatchett's Quintette in April 1940, and was composed by Dennis Moonan, who was a member of the group, playing clarinet, sax. and viola. (Master DR4580-1, Decca F7591).

 

It therefore might be that, a year later, Young assembled this group in order to create the same sound as the Alec Wilder Octet for Decca, but the results never attained a suitable standard for issue. The Alec Wilder Octet is seemingly little known in this country: I have never seen a 78 of them, as far as I recall, and further enquiries seem to indicate that only one 78 of the Octet was issued here. However, the approach & sound is exactly the same, the novachord taking the place of the harpsichord in the Wilder ensemble.

 

But why the masters aren't entered in the Decca files is still a mystery. And why the tests are dubs and not masters: who knows? And who made the arrangements? I telephoned Wilder’s publisher in New York, and they were unaware that he had ever arranged ‘In A Mist’ for his Octet.  But that still leaves the arrangement for ‘Handel’; who made it? So many questions!

 

I've cleaned up the sound up a little and notched out the most of the hum, but just for fun have left the non-locked run-off groove at the end. And for good measure, have just added the other side: ‘Mind, The Handel Is Hot.’

 

Click this link to hear an mp3 of ‘In A Mist’.

 

Click this link to hear an mp3 of ‘Mind, The Handel Is Hot’.

 

 

Page revised 8th October 2008.