Years ago, when I was completely green when it came to collecting 78s, I sought out arcane knowledge* wherever I could find it. And since I was broke most of the time, I had nothing but time to spend listening to more experienced collectors talk and talk (and play records). During that period, I was getting into early American jazz, blues, and country, but really had no idea where to begin. These collectors were equally irascible and incredibly generous. There was, however, one piece of dubious information that was drilled into me: red Columbias are a waste of your time, son. The mere mention of a “red Columbia” would make older collector’s eyes roll. I’d hear things like, “I drove all the way down to Philly for that estate sale – and all they had were red Columbias!” or “The guy wanted $5 each for all his red Columbias!” They were the most plentiful 78rpm record around (and probably still are), and the vast majority of what you’d find would be Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, big band…top sellers. It wasn’t until a few years down the road that I realized that the red label Columbia 78 wasn’t to be ignored whatsoever - that everything I’d heard up to that point was an elitist myth.
The American Columbia imprint was ravaged by the Depression like many other labels, and it vanished by the early 1930s (after beginning around the turn of the century). By 1939, it had been resurrected with a new red label. And yes, while it is true that it quickly became a profitable bastion of mid-20th century popular music, the red label Columbia, at least in some ways, continued where the old-school Columbia label left off when it came to international folk music. They resurrected Syrian and Egyptian recordings from the 1920s Columbia “X” (for “export”) series, and brought them back to life. They reissued fado records from Portugal, tough to find and out of print for years. And with Greek music – forget about it. The red Columbia label issued loads of amazing rebetika and Greek folk – recordings originally made in Greece and pressed on the European Columbia imprint (by then run by HMV) in the 30s, as well as more current, and often no less rootsy, recordings made in the United States by Greek immigrants.
Which leads me to today’s offering, another continuation of our 4-week exploration into aerophones. Clarinet master Kostas Gadinis was born sometime between 1885 and 1890 in the town of Siátista, in West Macedonia. He immigrated to the United States ca. 1915, and began recording as soon as the early 1920s. Legend has it that Benny Goodman and Dave Tarras saw Gadinis play live, and were suitably blown away, with Goodman referring to him as the “Benny Goodman of Greece.” This terrific instrumental rebetika track, in the sabah dromo (or maqam), was recorded October 22, 1940 in New York, with John K. Ginaros on accordion, and unknown accompanists on oud and drum. The title “Aebali” is better translated as “Aïvali” in Greek or “Ayvalık” in Turkish, and is the name of a town located on the northwest coast of Turkey which had a large Greek population until the end of the Ottoman Empire. This song was apparently also released under the title “Remembrance of Aebali Village.” Gadinis died in 1987.
Technical Notes Label: Columbia Issue Number: 7209-F Matrix Number: CO 28951
Thanks to Tony K. for info, as always – and thanks to Dave M. for turning me on to Gadinis’ work to begin with. For more Gadinis on CD, there are a couple of tracks on Topic’s Blowers From the Balkans CD. There is also an entire CD of Gadinis’ work on the Greek Falireas label, but it appears they are not yet equipped to take credit card orders.
*”I wanna keep my place in this old world – keep my place in the arcane knowledge” – Jonathan Richman, “Old World”