Living Era’s ‘Drop Me Off In Harlem’
is unique if only for the fact that
all twenty-five original mono titles
contain the word ‘Harlem.’
During the 1920s and 30s the clubs
and theatres in Harlem were the universal
centre for jazz and the entertainment
that accompanied it. The recordings
on this disc were cut between 1928
and 1952 and most of the featured
bands played in some stage in Harlem.
The earliest recording is trumpet
star Red Nichols’ ‘Harlem Twist’ composed
by two members of the band; Fud Livingston
and Chauncey Morehouse. The latest
title is ‘Harlem Nocturne’ with Woody
Herman on alto. This was recorded
when Woody was a guest with the David
Rose Orchestra and Strings. In between
there are contributions from Duke
Ellington, Red Allen and his Orchestra,
the Dorsey Brothers, Jimmie Lunceford,
the Hot Lips Page band and Fletcher
Henderson to name but a few.
Overall this CD contains a well-chosen
selection of the jazz of the era and,
unlike many compilations, generates
an ongoing interest. Hot Lips Page’s
Harlem Rumbain’ The Blues treats
us to Page’s typical wild and exciting
playing with a forceful growl especially
when soloing over the band’s backing.
Don Byas is the featured tenor soloist.
Holiday In Harlem played by
the Chick Webb Orchestra uses his
then regular vocalist Ella Fitzgerald.
This was recorded in 1937 two years
after she joined the band and it was
a famous combination. As a bandleader
Webb would see off most off most bands
in the regular cutting competitions.
Holiday In Harlem highlights
the crisp melodic arrangements the
band was noted for and Ella’s voice
is as fresh as ever with her timing
impeccable. The short Harlem Hotcha
sees a reunion, as The Carnival Three,
of an excellent combination - James
P. Johnson, who wrote the piece, Omer
Simeon and Pops Foster.
CD is highly recommended – it chronicles
an important jazz era played by the
very best of the day.