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Edison 20735 - a weird, long tale with a surprise ending


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I often grapple with mysteries about brown wax cylinders.  But recently, I got my butt kicked by a lowly molded 2M Edison - a Hispanic cylinder.  The experience was so fascinating, I thought it worth sharing.


Those of you who collect foreign series Edisons know that – like other mortals – the old man could and did make the same mistake twice. When National Phonograph went into the cylinder business in 1897, they used a block numbering system.  In a few years, it became unwieldy and they migrated to a chron numbering system.  Columbia did the same thing at about the same time.  But later, when National started producing cylinders for foreign markets, they repeated their mistake, creating blocks for different countries (the so-called Foreign Series).  Within a few years, some blocks were exhausted.  So they created subsidiary blocks from unused numbers.  Then, by 1910, they’d given up on the system entirely, assigning unused numbers haphazardly to recording sessions.  It was a mess.


Getting back to 20735, it was obviously a late 2M Hispanic, but which series did it belong to – Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Argentinian?  I went to my cylinder discographies to identify it and… there was no catalog listing for it!  Wow! 


So, I defaulted to looking for information about Srta. Bresonier.  Her bio shed no light on the problem: she was born in Spain, then spent her life traveling to Italy, Portugal, Cuba, Argentina, New York and California.  However, I did find an interesting listing in DAHR (what would we do without it?).  It turns out she made a disc in 1902 in Milan, recorded by Fred Gaisberg as well as a handful of Diamond Disc matrices which were never released.  The plot thickens.


In my experience, the Edison organization released almost everything they recorded in some shape or form, so I had to believe these sides were released too, and I was right. The Sutton Blue Amberol discography shows most of her DAHR-listed Diamond Disc titles in a 225xx Blue Amberol grouping in their CUBAN SERIES.  That pointed to 20735 being Cuban too, but I wasn’t sure.


According to the lid of the cylinder, the song was written by one Mauri Estev.  It turns out, he too was born in Spain, but spent most of his life in Cuba writing popular songs.  So, 20735 is a Cuban Series recording.  Case closed…but not quite.


Even though the cylinder is in dreadful shape, it’s so rare I thought I’d transfer it and try to clean it up.  In the process, a part of the song leapt out at me, it was so familiar.  Check out the sound file; it’s at :18 seconds for a few bars.  Turns out it is note-for-note and word-for-word from a cut on the Buena Vista Social Club album.  If you have that, go to De Camino a La Vereda and listen to it at 2:26.  Ibrahim Ferrer is credited with writing that song.  Well, maybe he wrote the rest of it, but I have to wonder if Mauri’s great grandkids have any idea that their forgotten great gramps wrote (part of) a Grammy winning tune.IMG_2705.thumb.JPG.682522efa7f58aa510944f36a8ce1698.JPG20735 Bresonier - Mujer Chismosa - 158.3 restore.mp3

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