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Peanuts Hucko (1918-2003)
Peanuts Hucko and the All Stars: Jam With Peanuts
Recorded on various dates between Spring 1947 and Spring 1948
Sounds of Yester Year DSOY698 [39.02] AAD

 



Sweet Georgia Brown [3:32]
The Song Is Ended [5:11]
Peanut Butter [3:32]
Stolen Peanuts [2:41]
I Must Have That Man [4:38]
Cow Bell Serenade [3:10]
I May Be Wrong [3:00]
Someday, Sweetheart [2:50]
Sweet Georgia Brown [5:16]
Stand Still, Stanley! [5:06]

 

Peanuts Hucko – clarinet and tenor saxophone
Max Kaminsky, Buck Clayton, Chris Griffin – trumpets
Freddy Ohms, Herb Winfield, Jr. – trombones
Toots Mondello – alto saxophone
Bill Vitale , Cliff Strickland, Artie Drellinger – tenor saxophones
Larry Molinelli, Ernie Cacares – baritone saxophones
Mundell Lowe, Danny Perri – guitars
Charlie Queener , Lou Stein, Joe Bushkin, Stan Freeman – piano
Jack Lesberg, Bob Haggart – double bass
Dave Tough, Morey Feld, Bunny Shawker – drums
Liza Morrow - vocals

 

As unjust as it is, Peanuts Hucko is not a household name. He was easily Benny Goodman's equal on clarinet and could easily be mistaken for Stan Getz on tenor sax when so inclined. He was Louis Armstrong's clarinet player in the Louis Armstrong All-Star band from 1958 to 1960. He played with bands fronted by Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Glenn Miller, and Eddie Conlon, and even led the Glenn Miller ghost band for several years in the 1970s, and all of that was in addition to the work he did leading his own groups. He should be remembered, and there should be recordings to give listeners a good jumping-off point for listening.

This album serves just that purpose, as it spotlights Peanuts at the height of his popularity and technical prowess. It was recorded in 1947 and 1948, with a variety of musicians at several locations. Due to recording equipment of the time the album suffers from some of the normal recording limitations that must be expected. The trumpets sometimes overpowered the microphones during their solos, and generally the album pops and cracks are in evidence. However, the sound quality for most of the songs is certainly better than many recordings of the era, and record noise truly seems to add to the ambiance of the recording rather than distract the listener. The balance of the group is very good, with the bass and drums much more prominent in the mix than many recordings. This is definitely nice, as a bass-boost equalizing effect isn't needed in order to hear the full rhythm section.

The one place where the recording seems to have noticeably degraded is in the 2nd recording of "Sweet Georgia Brown". This recording was obviously included because Peanuts' performance is notably inspired, and the band is reduced in size to a quartet. The first recording is done more in the style of a jump band, with Peanuts on clarinet and at least 2 other saxophone players, a trombone and 2 trumpets in addition to the rhythm section. Both are good renditions of the familiar favorite.

Peanut Butter is one of the most forward-sounding of the tracks. The orchestration is heavily influenced by west-coast swing from the Cool school, featuring a guitar/clarinet duet. The arrangement makes great use of the dark sound of the clarinet in its lower register. "The Cow Bell Serenade" harkens to Raymond Scott songs like Powerhouse or Square Dance For Eight Egyptian Mummies, and allows Peanuts to show off his skills on tenor-sax. "I May Be Wrong" features Liza Morrow on vocals and uses the same jump-band orchestration that was used on the initial recording of "Sweet Georgia Brown".

The rest of the album is done largely in Dixieland style, though not in the sense of New Orleans riverboat dixie. This is more like the refined Dixieland of Teagarden in the '50s or Louis Armstrong in the '60s. There are no tubas, and there is piano accompaniment on every track, but the group improvisation and bright clarinet driving the arrangement is always in evidence. Sometimes he's working with a quartet, other times with a septet or larger, but there is no escaping his influences.

As a general statement, Peanuts Hucko deserves to be remembered. He was every bit the equal of Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw. The album is genuinely fun and upbeat, and full of inspired solos and arrangements. There are few clarinet albums that can claim the level of inspiration and fun that this offers.

Patrick Gary



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