In 1917, Arthur Pryor gave a benefit concert in Ocean Grove, NJ with the great organ that is housed there. This was one of the few times in Pryor's later years that he would play such an extensive program, but it was for a good cause. The Asbury Park First M.E. Church had burned down on Good Friday of that year, and Pryor was approached to help raise money for the rebuilding. The program of this concert is not listed, so for this project, we picked three hymns that Pryor recorded with the Victor Company: "The Holy City," "One Sweetly Solemn Thought," and "The Palms". The arrangements were done in a style that Pryor might have played, but were specially written with both the "old" and "new" in mind. "One Sweetly Solemn Thought" was done in a "Pryorist" technical style; while it contrasted with the cantabile theme of the recording, we all felt that it would be fun to keep in the project. Here is a copy of the original advertisement for the concert in 1917 (Trombone/Organ 1917). Please enjoy the beautiful pictures of Ocean Grove, a National Historic Site. Also please note in the pictures that Mr. Alessi is standing on the same stage that Pryor did, almost 100 years ago, and is playing Mr. Pryor's horn!
During Arthur Pryor's career, he was often featured in duets with a cornetist; staying true to common practice of the day, the musicians took operatic pieces written for soprano and tenor and recreated them with cornet and trombone. The music chosen for this project were pieces that Pryor not only performed, but also recorded. "Home to the Mountain" was one of Pryor's first duets recorded with cornet virtuoso Herbert L. Clarke. Pryor also regularly recorded with cornetists Emil Keneke and Henry Higgins. (Pictured below) Those who have never performed operatic pieces before may be surprised at the great endurance and control required to play them effectively. A stand out piece in the collection is "Nearer My God to Thee", which was originally recorded with Henry Higgins around 1898. It features four bars of piano introduction followed by acappella cornet and trombone; the piece concludes with the final "amen" by the piano.
A little-known fact is that Arthur Pryor had a trombone quartet twice during his career. The first time was in 1902, when he was still with the Sousa Band. The quartet recorded 3 different pieces for the Victor Phonograph Company; one of the pieces recorded was "Sweet and Low" which we have reproduced on this CD. The second time the Arthur Pryor Trombone Quartet resurfaces was in 1916 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Every time they played they were encored multiple times; the unfortunate thing about these performances was that the concert programs never published what the Quartet would be playing. The only reference to a composition was in an article about the Quartet (below) in which Arthur Pryor states: "before the season is over they (the Quartet) will be playing pieces like the Hungarian Rhapsody. " Whether or not they ever performed this is unknown, but we thought it would be an excellent addition to this CD.
The age-old question:
What did Arthur Pryor really sound like?
We have recordings of Pryor, but they were done in an era before the invention of the microphone; thus, they do not represent his true sound quality. In this project, we originally intended to bring Pryor into the 21st century, where he would "play" a duet with Joe Alessi. The producer Adam Abeshouse, however, had the idea of sending Alessi into the past. Abeshouse suggested having Alessi record on equipment similar to what Pryor would have used 100 years ago, employing Peter Dilg's expertise and equipment. Dilg is an expert in the use of early recording equipment, and also owns an Edison Studio Machine. We selected two pieces that Pryor had recorded, and had a second part written for Alessi. The second parts were recorded onto a cylinder (with Alessi using Pryor's trombone) and then spliced together with the original Pryor recording.
The result? One would think that these two were playing right next to each other.
The answer to the age-old question?
Arthur Pryor sounded like Joe Alessi!
Or Joe Alessi sounds like Arthur Pryor, minus Pryor's heavy vibrato.