.... a group called "Merle Johnston's Saxophone Quartet." Merle played tenor sax and there were two alto saxes and one baritone sax. The group recorded 4 sides, two instrumental and two with Smith Ballew on vocal. I have only heard the vocals: "Always in Always" and "It's A Great Life." I love those records, a nice mellow sound with great harmonization by the saxes, and terrific vocals by the talented Smith Ballew.
Almost seventy years later, the Beau Hunks Soctette, inspired by Merle's Saxophone quartet, recorded "Always in Always." You can hear that recreation in WBIX # 95, at the end of the program. I have the Merle Johnston version somewhere. If there is interest, I'll find it and upload it.
The Merle Johnston's Saxophone Quartet instrumental sides are "Do Something" and "Baby, Oh Where can you be?", which I am lucky enough to have. They are really great - not hot, but rhythmic and impeccably played. The arrangements are superb - they are even better than the vocal sides. All four sides were reissued in 1986 on an LP entitled "Persian Rug", which was produced by VJM Records in London. The transfers are bad, unfortunately - all the top sliced off!
The LP also contains the four sides by the Andrew Aiona Novelty Four, recorded in Los Angeles in January 1929. These hot Hawaiian recordings are truly amazing. The cornet player is VERY Bixian and the alto/baritone sax player's style is certainly Trumbauer-influenced.
The sleeve notes, by Steve Lane, tell us something about these sides:
"....Andrew Aiona is no doubt the Andy Iona whose group The Islanders was well-known for its Hawaiian music later in the thirties. We have no information on the other musicians, but I believe them to be Hawaiian musicians settled on the West Coast of the USA. One day someone will survey the work of such immigrants in the twenties....In spite of the Hawaiian-sounding titles, the music is in the Bix-Trumbauer idiom and is of the highest quality...."
The four titles are "Hula Girl", "Paahana", "Keko" and "That Lovin' Hula".
Does anyone have any information about these musicians, particularly the cornetist and the alto/baritone sax player?