Watch the Closing Doors: A History of New York's Musical Melting Pot Vol. 1 1945-59

Attempting to represent 65 years of music born in New York in a set of compilation CDs is indeed "insane," to quote the liner notes. But what makes this debut volume so fun, and the series so promising, is that canon-making gets trumped by vibe. So you get Duke Ellington ("Take the 'A' Train"), Frankie Lymon ("Why Do Fools Fall in Love?") and John Cage ("Indeterminacy [Part 2]"). But you also get drummer-bandleader Cozy Cole, whose raunchy 1959 instrumental "Bad" nails the city's pre-Sixties swagger; singer/civil rights activist Josh White, a hero of the Greenwich Village folk revival; and electronic-music pioneer Raymond Scott, the Brooklyn-born inventor known for his soundtracks to Looney Tunes cartoons. A 68-page book provides backstories, while the tracks tell tales that roar like subway cars. Bring on Vol. 2.

Listen to Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train":

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From The Archives Issue 1137: August 18, 2011