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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

THE GREAT BIG BAND COLLECTION

5CD-BOX COLLECTION FEATURING

Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Stan Kenton & Jimmie Lunceford

 

SabAm-crescendo 2002 JOAN RECORDS 7147

rainbowcd.com

Digital Remastered

 

Count Basie and His Orchestra. Recorded New York and Los Angeles 1947-51

    1. Mine, Too

    2. Walking Slow Behind You

    3. Normania

    4. Rocky Mountain Blues

    5. Rat Race

    6. Solid As A Rock

    7. Sweets

    8. Nails

    9. Beaver Junction
    10. Just An Old Manuscript

    11. Katy

    12. She’s A Wine-O

    13. Did You Ever See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

    14. Shoutin’ Blues

    15. After You’ve Gone

    16. St. Louis Baby

    17. Wonderful Thing

    18. The Slider

The Basie disc covers the immediate period following the last war and encompasses several recordings by his first post war big band until its dissolution c1950 and a few tracks introducing the leader’s return to smaller groups in 1951.

Most of the usual Basie luminaries are present however it is surprising that Walter Page is absent to be replaced in the ‘engine room’ by either Singleton Palmer, Al McKibbon or Jimmy Lewis. Other irregulars include Gerald Wilson, Melba Liston, Paul Gonsalves and vocalists are heavy.

From track 1 we are aware of that tight distinctive Basie sound coupled with arrangements from Don Redman. This is no more evident than on ‘Rat Race’ where two piano notes are sufficient to set a swinging tempo gradually building up the tension to superb tenor exchanges. On the 1951 ‘Nails’ numerous changes had taken place and Al Porcino, Booty Wood, Wardell Grey and Lucky Thompson were with the small group. ‘Beaver Junction’ shows that later ‘Atomic’ sound beginning to break through with Marshall Royal’s alto to the fore. During this period I feel that Basie should have abandoned some of the ‘middle of the road’ singers and especially the vocal groups – no Mills Brothers here. Thankfully ‘Mr. Five-by-Five’ keeps things on an even keel. Similarly after the ‘Take Me To The Ball Game’ intro quote the massed band is featured singingon ‘Did You Ever See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball’ – what a title – not my cup of tea!

Overall this is an interesting cross-section of Basie’s work over five years and the small group features make it for me.

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. Recorded Hollywood and Chicago 1941-2

    1. Chelsea Bridge

    2. Perdido

    3. The’C’ Jam Blues

    4. Moon Mist

    5. What Am I Here For?

    6. I Don’t Mind

    7. Someone

    8. My Little Brown Book

    9. Main Stem

    10. Johnny Come Lately

    11. Haywood, Strawfoot

    12. Jump For Joy

    13. Moon Over Cuba

    14. Five O’Clock Drag

    15. Rocks In My Bed

    16. Blip-Blip

    17. Chelsea Bridge

    18. Raincheck

    19. What Good Would It Do?

    20. I Don’t Know What Kind Of Blues I Got

This CD covers only two years of a masterful band’s history – two years that are not considered to include any Ellington milestones. However the line-up is considered by many to be the best Ellington ever had. Although the Cotton Club days were long gone only a couple of years previous to these recordings Ellington had captured a massive following with such masterpieces as ‘Concerto for Cootie.’ To come in 1943 was the first Carnegie Hall concert. Having said that in 1941-2 Ellington was still fronting a band full of significant and long serving musicians and the arrangements are as fresh as ever – Billy Strayhorn began writing for the Duke in 1939.

The Ellington specialist may feel that there is nothing new on this disc especially as it includes two recordings of Chelsea Bridge. But in the context of being part of a big band boxed set most listeners will be more than satisfied with this CD by a bandleader whose music over the years involved so many facets of jazz.

 

 

Harry James and His Orchestra. Recorded mainly in New York 1938-46

    1. Concerto For Trumpet

    2. Music makers

    3. Don’t Be That Way

    4. September Song

    5. I’ve Heard That Song Before

    6. Autumn Serenade

    7. Trumpet Blues and Cantabile

    8. These Foolish Things

    9. Melancholy Rhapsody

    10. James Session

    11. The Flight Of The Bumble Bee

    12. The Carnival Of Venice

    13. Trumpet Rhapsody – Part I

    14. Trumpet Rhapsody – Pat II

    15. I Want To Be Happy

    16. Flatbush Flanagan

    17. I Don’t Want To Walk Without You

    18. Strictly Instrumental

    19. Im Beginning To See The Light

Anyone who wants an ‘essential’ Harry James this is the CD for you. From a very early age it was obvious that James was something special and by the time he was nineteen was in Benny Pollack’s band. In 1937 he joined Benny Goodman and formed his own band in 1939.

The tracks are mainly those that brought him popularity, great commercial success and worldwide recognition. Sadly he never shook off his ‘pop musician’ identity until he formed small groups later in his career. Two fine vocalists are featured here Helen Forest and Dick Haymes and they were both part of the James Orchestra in the 1940s. A couple of the tracks have strings accompaniment. Fire, dazzling technique, feeling and sheer mastery of the trumpet are highlighted in the recommended collection of 1940s favourites.

 

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra. Various recording venues 1951-3

    1. Mambo Rhapsody

    2. Riff Raff

    3. Star Dust

    4. Bags And Baggage

    5. Bill’s Blues

    6. Cool Eyes

    7. Beehive

    8. Taboo

    9. Swing House

    10. Portrait Of A Count

    11. Invention For Guitar And Trumpet

    12. Lover man

    13. Fascinating Rhythm

    14. Dynaflow

    15. What’s New

    16. Jump For Joe

    17. Night Watch

    18. Francesca

    19. Sambo

    20. Street Of Dreams

    21. Soliloquy

    22. Lazy Daisy

The 1940s heralded the Kenton Era and the impact was terrific however the tracks on this CD were recorded in the early 1950s - the days of great names in the Kenton alumni. Maynard Ferguson, Conti Candoli, Buddy Childers and Shorty Rogers were in the trumpet section. At one time or another the trombones included Milt Bernhart, Bill Russo, Bob Fitzpatrick and sometime saxophonists were Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper and Lennie Niehaus to name but a few. They are all featured here and individually most went on to play a part in the various developing jazz forms of the 1950s and 60s. – especially the West Coast movement.

At one point between 1950 and 1952 Kenton fronted the progressive Innovation in Modern Music Orchestra whose performances lost him many of his former fans. He soon corrected that error and reformed with a more swinging band similar to his earlier years. The arrangements are not so ‘technical and experimental’ and the band is better for it. This was where he added more soloists to already impressive list. Listen to tracks 5,6 and 10 for evidence of the change of direction.

 

Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra. Recorded in New York 1937- 41

    1. Cheatin’ On Me

    2. The Lonesome Road

    3. Mandy

    4. Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home

    5. Uptown Blues

    6. I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town

    7. Back Door Stuff

    8. For Dancers Only

    9. Harlem Shout

    10. Four Or Five Times

    11. Organ Grinder’s Swing

    12. Margie

    13. Le Jazz Hot

    14. Tain’t What You Do

    15. Blues In The Night (Parts I & II)

    16. Twenty-Four Robbers

Whilst 1934-5 was the time when Jimmy Lunceford launched the ‘teenage’ band that soon became well established, 1937- 42 were without doubt ‘the years.’ The band then included such soloist stalwarts as Willie Smith, Joe Thomas, Trummy Young and Moses Allen. Sy Oliver and Ed Wilcox were writing many of the arrangements.

Fortunately here we don’t have to witness the mechanical circus horse antics so evident in many of Lunceford’s live performances – thankfully sound and solos remained to high standard. Sadly, through dissatisfaction caused by money disputes, by 1943 most of the star members of the band had moved on and there was an overall decline in Lunceford’s music. It is interesting to see that Omer Simeon was on the 1944 recording of ‘Back Door Stuff.’

Generally this boxed-set adequately covers the many variations in big band music over twenty years and several less well-know numbers are included. It could be of special interest to someone who wants a broad- brush introduction to some of the most popular music of that period.

Jack Ashby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 



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