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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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The Essential Collection

Avid AVC 861




The Essential Collection

Avid AVC 861

1. Walkiní Shoes
2. Take The "Aí Train
3. Begin The Beguine
4. It Donít Mean A Thing
5. Darktown Strutters Ball
6. I Get A Kick Out Of You
7. Obsession
8. East Of The Sun (And West of The Moon)
9. Hot Toddy
10. Soho
11. Clementine
12. Iíve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
13. Flying Home
14. Woodchopperís Ball
15. Georgia On My Mind
16. But Not For Me
17. And The Angels Sing
18. Muskrat Ramble
19. Tuxedo Junction
20. Bond Street
21. In A Sentimental Mood
22. Good Bait
23. Jersey Bounce
24. The High And the Mighty
25. Heading North

1. Opus 1
2. Intermission Riff
3. Donít Worry About Me
4. From This Moment On
5. Lonesome Road
6. Iíve Grown Accustomed To Her Face
7. If I Had You
8. Exactly Like You
9. That Old Black Magic
10. High Society
11. King Porter Stomp
12. Anything Goes
13. You Do Something To Me
14. Gone With The Wind
15. In The Still Of The Night
16. I Cried For You
17. Blues In The Night
18. April In Paris
19. Change Partners
20. Time On My Hands
21. Adios
22. Speak Low
23. Blue Moon
24. When The Saints Go Marching In
25. Stardust
26. Robbins Nest
27. California, Here I Come
28. Listen To My Music

After pianist Stan Tracey played with Ted Heathís orchestra for two years in the late 1950s, he was scathing towards any suggestion that it was a jazz ensemble. This album makes me think he was on to something. Most of the music is so tightly arranged that there is little room for the freedom of expression that is essential to most jazz. Certainly there are jazz solos but these are often short. Exactly Like You is a rare exception, allowing a tenor-saxist (Tommy Whittle?) to stretch out.

The arrangements are played with superb precision, although versions of Duke Ellington tunes like Take the "A" Train and It Donít Mean a Thing are unimaginative. Some arrangements are straight copies of recordings made by American bands Ė for example, Stan Kentonís Intermission Riff. Ted Heath always employed first-class musicians and his trumpet section, for example, worked wonders, while the trombone choir makes a mellow and recognisable sound. So fans of the band will find much here to please them.

However, the selection of tracks hardly justifies the title "The Essential Collection". Several of the bandís recordings were hits but only Hot Toddy makes it into the collection, while other hits like Dragnet, Swinging Shepherd Blues and Tequila are missing. The lack of Tequila alerts us to the fact that there are none of Duncan Campbellís stratospherically anarchic vocals; nor are some other Heath favourites included, such as Don Lusherís storming Late Night Final or Send for Henry - a memorable feature for Henry Mackenzieís clarinet (although that may be Henry soloing on Clementine).

This brings us to another drawback of this set: the lack of personnel details or recording dates. Who is the soaring soprano saxist in Georgia on my Mind? Who plays the delightful muted trumpet on Iíve Grown Accustomed to Her Face? The minimal sleeve-notes offer no information. Altogether this is a generous but disappointing two-CD set from a company which usually provides better choices of musiciansí work.

Tony Augarde


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