The Great BIG BAND Collection
Ben Webster with Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman,
Glenn Miller, Johnny Hodges, Ray Anthony
Sabam Crescendo Joan Records No7159
Apart from the Johnny Hodges Album, this is a Big band Collection.
Ben Webster with Duke Ellington
- Chelsea Bridge
- Rain Check
- What Am I Here For?
- Main Stem
- Sepia Panorama
- Cotton Tail
- All Too Soon
- Conga Brava
- My Greatest Mistake
- Blue Serge
- Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’
The full sound of Ben Webster’s Tenor Sax had
a profound effect on the Duke Ellington Orchestra and after
his departure, the Duke employed several different tenor sax
players but they all had a nice full sound even if the styles
varied. I must confess to being a great fan of Ben Webster,
he seems to me to play the Tenor Sax as it was intended to be
played. On all of the first three tracks including Rain Check
his own composition Webster is featured. The Ellington sax section
at this time also had a delightful big sound but with Johnny
Hodges and Harry Carney around, that was only to be expected.
This particular Ellington band was full of star soloists Rex
Stewart and Cootie Williams are heard to good effect on Trumpet
as are Tricky Sam Nanton and Juan Tizol on Trombone and the
delightful Johnny Hodges alto sax, to say nothing of the Dukes
fine piano playing. The band also plays with great precision,
well-applied dynamics and perfect intonation. Webster’s playing
on sepia panorama is exceptional; it is a nice concert piece.
Cotton Tail stayed in Webster’s repertoire,
I heard him at Ronnie Scott’s and in Coventry and he played
it on both occasions, the saxophone section also have a nice
soli on this arrangement which builds to an exciting climax
then fades at the end.
Seven of the fifteen tracks are credited to
Webster as composer; I did not realise that he was so proficient
in that department. His solo on All Too Soon is typical of the
man, very laid back, superb tone and use of vibrato. Conga Brava
has some nice clarinet work, Barney Bigard presumably, before
Ben takes driven along by Sonny Greer and the rhythm section.
The theme statement on My Greatest Mistake
starts off with Harry Carney, the father of the Baritone Sax
in Big Bands and Webster takes it up.
Sittin’ and a Rockin’ is a great favourite
of mine, the tune itself swings and it is ideal Webster material,
which is not surprising a he wrote it!
This is an excellent Ellington album with great
solos from all concerned, particularly Ben Webster, congratulations
to Joan records for releasing it.
- Russian Lullaby
- Is That the Way to Treat a Sweetheart?
- I Had to Do It
- You’re Lovely, Madam
- Bumble Bee Stomp
- This Can’t Be Love
- Sing for Your Supper
- Smoke House Rhythm
- I Must See Annie Tonight
- The Flat Foot Floogie
- I’ve got a Date with a Dream
- Could You Pass in Love
- Blue interlude
- When I Go A-Dreaming
- You’re A Sweet Little Headache
- I have Eyes
- What have You Got That Gets Me?
The 1938 BG band recorded these tracks and
it was only on hearing them that I realised how important Gene
Krupa was in the development of the Benny Goodman band. The
rhythm section on this record plods from start to finish, with
Jess Stacey on piano and the well respected Dave Tough on the
drums, you would have expected something much better. Perhaps
the awful bass playing put them off! It is an all star band
with Harry James and Ziggy Elman in the Trumpet section.
By all accounts playing with the Goodman band
was never much fun; he was a rigid disciplinarian and a perfectionist.
The trouble is that perfection can be subjective and rigid discipline
and swing are not easy partners. No doubt Goodman’s later bands
benefited from his association not only with Krupa, but with
a man who you could rely on to ‘swing like mad’ Lionel Hampton.
BG’s own clarinet solos are of course perfection
personified, with Goodman that is guaranteed. Martha Tilton
is a very competent vocalist, but not one to set the house alight.
The band has not stood the passage of time
well and sounds very dated, the reason may be that in 1938 Benny
was running a dance band as opposed to the concert swing band
- Tuxedo Junction
- I’ll Be Around
- I hear You Screamin’
- Juke Box Saturday Night
- My Blue Heaven
- Saint Louis Blues March
- It Must Be Jelly
- There’ll Be a Hot Time In the Town of Berlin
- Flying Home
- Here We Go Again
- Jeep Jockey Jump
- Enlisted Men’s Mess
- Begin the Beguine
- In the Mood
- Over There
- Anvil Chorus
- Song of the Volga Boatmen
- Farewell Blues
- They are Yanks
- My Ideal
- Mission to Moscow
- Sun Valley Jump
This is not the regular Miller Outfit, but
the 1943/4 version of the Army-Air Force Band. Major Glenn Miller
was the Musical Director of this Military organisation. The
addition of an 18-piece string section introduces variety to
the sound and the arrangements have been slightly ‘tweaked’
for the larger band.
Like all Glenn Miller bands the ensemble work
is perfection and Ray McKinley on drums, sparks the band along
a lot more than ever happened on the previous BG CD. My review
copy had flaws in tracks 1 & 2 but was otherwise OK.
Everything that you can say about Glenn Miller
and his music has been said already lets just say that for the
many Miller fans here is another treat!
- Castle rock
- Sophisticated lady
- Globe Trotter
- A Gentle Breeze
- A pound of Blues
- Who’s Excited
- Sweeping the Blues Away
- Day Dream
- Standing Room Only
- Below the Azores
- Sweet Lorraine
- Rabbit’s Blues
- Something to Paid Your Feet For
- Blue Fantasia
- My Reward
- Good Queen Bess
- Jeep’s Blues
- The Jeep is Jumpin’
The Johnny Hodges Orchestra turns out to be a seven-piece band
with a front line of Hodges-Alto, Emmett Berry-Trumpet, Lawrence
Brown-Trombone, and Al Sears-Tenor. This hardly constitutes
a big band, but the listener should not be put off by that,
it is an excellent disc.
Johnny Hodges is always associated with the
Duke Ellington Orchestra on which he was such a profound influence.
His influence on Big Band music in general was even wider, Marshall
Royal with the Count Basie Band and Woody Herman adopted very
similar styles. Hodges was in demand with record companies in
his own right, but in most cases, as with this one, most of
his sidemen were Ellingtonians. His style is unique and immediately
recognisable, he was an excellent section leader and a most
I had not heard Al Sears tune, A Gentle Breeze,
before but it worthy of more prominence than it has received
to date. Emmett Berry’s trumpet playing on most of the tracks
is very good indeed and the recordings made in 1950/51/52 are
of very good quality. The three and a half-minute limit on records
produced for the old 78-RPM format certainly sharpened the mind
of the soloist. If you were lucky you got two choruses, but
in most case it was only one, so you had to give of your best
straight away. I can think of many discs where this discipline
would have been useful and I’m sure most people can. Unlimited
time can mean unlimited, untidy music!
The rhythm section is superb throughout and
the changes in personnel in that dept. make little or no difference
to the overall sound.
Joan records BV are to be congratulated on
this release even though it is not strictly Big Band music.
This band does have the classic Big Band personnel
and although the only information on the sleeve notes is that
they recordings were made between 1949 & !953, this is an
- Who’s Sorry Now
- My Blue Heaven
- Here Am I ,Broken Hearted
- Sleepy time Gal
- Rollin’ Home
- Stormy Weather
- Randle’s Island
- All of Me
- Sleepy Lagoon
- Singing in the Rain
- My reverie
- I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
- Deep Purple
- Moonlight Saving Time
- Stella By Starlight
When Glenn Miller died the Ray Anthony Orchestra
had a ready-made audience; trumpeter Anthony’s band had many
of the Miller qualities. The arrangements on this disc, unfortunately
we don’t know who wrote them, would be first-class material
for training young musicians to play in big bands. They are
not incredibly difficult, but they need to be played very precisely,
with great attention to dynamics, section work ant tone. The
trombone section is very reminiscent of the Ted Heath Band,
which was also of a very high quality; the difference is that
the Heath Band was also essentially a swing band. The Anthony
Band, which would I am sure have been competent in that dept.
as well, was more restrained. The section playing is superb
however as is the overall balance of the band.
Whilst this is not my favourite big band style
for sheer professionalism, it can’ be beaten.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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