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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 STORY OF BIG BANDS

Le Chant du Monde 574 1481.90

 

 


CD 1

1. Castle House Rag – James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra
2. Ole Miss Rag - Handy's Orchestra
3. Russian Rag - Jim Europe's 369th Infantry "Hell Fighters" Band
4. Wang Wang Blues - Paul Whiteman
5. Memphis Blues - The Virginians
6. Frankie And Johnny - Isham Jones
7. Play That Thing - Ollie Powers' Harmony Syncopators
8. Mama's Gone Goodbye - Piron's New Orleans Orchestra
9. Frankie And Johnny - Fate Marable
10 Copenhagen - Fletcher Henderson
11. Black Rag - Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra
12. Someday Sweetheart - King Oliver
13. The Henderson Stomp - Fletcher Henderson
14. Kansas City Shuffle - Bennie Moten
15. My Pretty Girl - Jean Goldkette
16. St. Louis Shuffle - Fletcher Henderson
17. Bogalusa Strut - Sam Morgan
18. Black And Tan Fantasy - Duke Ellington
19. Creole Love Call - Duke Ellington
20. Alexander's Ragtime Band - All Star Orchestra
21. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo - Duke Ellington
22. Sugar - Paul Whiteman
23. Black Beauty - Duke Ellington
24. Four Or Five Times - McKinney's Cotton Pickers
25. South - Bennie Moten
26. Hop Off - Fletcher Henderson
CD 2

1. The Mooche - Duke Ellington
2. Hot And Bothered - Duke Ellington
3. Clarinet Marmalade - Lud Gluskin
4. It's Tight Like That - McKinney's Cotton Pickers
5. West End Blues - King Oliver
6. Everybody Loves My Baby - Earl Hines
7. Blake's Blues - Sam Wooding
8. Ozark Mountain Blues - The Missourians
9. Sugar Hill Function - Henry "Red" Allen
10 Mood Indigo - Duke Ellington
11. Saratoga Drag - Luis Russell
12. Rockin' In Rhythm - Duke Ellington
13. White Jazz - Glen Gray & His Casa Loma Orchestra
14. Sugar Foot Stomp - Fletcher Henderson
15. Savage Rhythm - Mills Blue Rhythm Band
16. Shakin' The African - Don Redman
17. Who Taught You That - Radiolians
18. Hot And Anxious - Don Redman
19. The Man From Harlem - Cab Calloway
20. New King Porter Stomp - Fletcher Henderson
21. Lafayette - Bennie Moten
22. I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues - Louis Armstrong
23. Daybreak Express - Duke Ellington
24. Casa Loma Stomp - Glen Gray & His Casa Loma Orchestra
25. Symphony In Riffs - Benny Carter
26. The Growl - Mills Blue Rhythm Band
CD 3

1. In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree - Claude Hopkins
2. Stompin' At The Savoy - Chick Webb
3. Polka Dot Rag - Noble Sissle
4. Shanghai Shuffle - Fletcher Henderson
5. Copenhagen - Earl Hines
6. Stomp It Off - Jimmie Lunceford
7. Don't Be That Way - Chick Webb
8. Blue Skies - Benny Goodman
9. Liza - Willie Bryant
10. Reminiscing In Tempo - Duke Ellington
11. Froggy Bottom - Andy Kirk
12. Christopher Columbus - Willie Lewis
13. Passionette - Teddy Hill
14. Swing That Music - Louis Armstrong
15. Jimtown Blues - Ben Pollack
16. Organ Grinder's Swing - Jimmie Lunceford
17. Wabash Stomp - Roy Eldridge
18. Remember - Red Norvo
19. King Porter Stomp - Teddy Hill
20. Mahogany Hall Stomp - Bunny Berigan
21. One o'clock Jump - Count Basie
22. Topsy - Count Basie
CD 4

1. Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue - Duke Ellington
2. South Rampart Street Parade - Bob Crosby
3. Sent For You Yesterday - Count Basie
4. Transcontinental - Lyle "Spud" Murphy
5. Liza - Chick Webb
6. Begin The Beguine - Artie Shaw
7. Mess-A-Stomp - Andy Kirk
8. Boogie Woogie - Tommy Dorsey
9. Runnin' Wild - Glenn Miller
10 Grand Terace Shuffle - Earl Hines
11. Tuxedo Junction - Erskine Hawkins
12. In The Mood - Glenn Miller
13. Stealin' Apples - Benny Goodman
14. The Duke's Idea - Charlie Barnet
15. Jamaica Jam - Teddy Powell
16. Riff Interlude - Count Basie
17. Uptown Blues - Jimmie Lunceford
18. Blue Rhythm Fantasy - Gene Krupa
19. Wham - Andy Kirk
20. Chant Of The Weed - Don Redman
21. Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues – Earl Hines
22. Kitty On Toast - Horace Henderson
23. Ko-Ko - Duke Ellington
24. Pickin' The Cabbage - Cab Calloway
CD 5

1. Tickle Toe - Count Basie
2. Cotton Tail - Duke Ellington
3. Okay For Baby - Benny Carter
4. Rockin' In Rhythm - Charlie Barnet
5. Smooth Sailing - Horace Henderson
6. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me - Artie Shaw
7. Superman - Benny Goodman
8. One o'clock Jump - Metronome All Stars
9. Blue Flame - Woody Herman
10. Take The "A" Train - Duke Ellington
11. Yes Indeed! - Tommy Dorsey
12. 9.20 Special - Count Basie
13. Swingmatism - Jay McShann
14. Snowfall - Claude Thornhill
15. Blue River - Jack Teagarden
16. Yard Dog Mazurka - Jimmie Lunceford
17. The Earl - Benny Goodman
18. Back Bay Boogie – Benny Carter
19. Tappin' Off - Cab Calloway
20. You Rascal You - Louis Armstrong
21. Murderistic - Jimmy Dorsey
22. Chicago - Muggsy Spanier
23. Gambler Blues - Stan Kenton
24. Savoy - Lucky Millinder
CD 6

1. Stormy Monday Blues - Earl Hines
2. Epistrophy - Cootie Williams
3. Flying Home - Lionel Hampton
4. Main Stem - Duke Ellington
5. The Jumoin' Blues - Jay McShann
6. Pow-Wow - Charlie, Barnet
7. Skyliner - Charlie Barnet
8. Ain't Misbehavin' - Louis Armstrong
9. Fish Market - Roy Eldridge
10. Million Dollar Smile - Lionel Hampton
11. Black Brown And Beige - Duke Ellington
12. In The Middle - Georgie Auld
13. Avenue C - Count Basie
14. Caldonia - Woody Herman
15. Little Jazz - Artie Shaw
16. Boyd's Nest - Boyd Raeburn
17. Beulah's Boogie - Lionel Hampton
18. The Good Earth - Woody Herman
19. I'm In The Mood For Love - Billy Eckstine
20. Queer Street - Count Basie
21. Cherry Red - Eddie Vinson
22. Diga Diga Doo - Benny Carter
CD 7

1. Intermission Riff - Stan Kenton
2. Rockin' In Rhythm - Lionel Hampton
3. Second Balcony Jump - Billy Eckstine
4. Dalvatore Sally - Boyd Raeburn
5. The King - Count Basie
6. Blowin' Up A Storm - Woody Herman
7. Things To Come - Dizzy Gillespie
8. Transblucency - Duke Ellington
9. Opus In Pastels - Stan Kenton
10 Summer Sequence - Woody Herman
11. Introspection - Ralph Burns
12. The Bloos - George Handy
13. Moten Swing - Harry James
14. Jivin' With Jack The Bellboy - Illinois Jacquet
15. Hy'a Sue - Duke Ellington
16. Two Bass Hit - Dizzy Gillespie
17. Anthropology - Claude Thornhill
18. Donna Lee - Claude Thornhill
19. Mingus Fingers - Lionel Hampton
CD 8

1. Repetition - Charlie Parker with Neal Hefti
2. Your Red Wagon - Count Basie
3. Algo Bueno (Woody'n You) - Dizzy Gillespie
4. Interlude - Stan Kenton
5. Liberian Suite - Duke Ellington
6. Four Brothers - Woody Herman
7. Idiot's Delight - Ray McKinley
8. Good Bait - Dizzy Gillespie
9. The Carioca - Buddy Rich
10 Over The Rainbow - Buddy Rich
11. Early Autumn - Woody Herman
12. Overtime - Metronome All-Stars
13. Lemon Drop - Gene Krupa
14. Hamp's Boogie Nº 2 - Lionel Hampton
15. Undercurrent Blues - Benny Goodman
16. Father Knickerbopper - Chubby Jackson
17. Overtime - Charlie Barnet
18. Elevation - Elliott Lawrence
19. Rouge - Miles Davis
20. Venus De Milo - Miles Davis
21. A Bird In Igor's Yard - Buddy DeFranco
22. More Moon - Woody Herman
CD 9

1. Down Yonder - Buddy Johnson
2. The Scene Changes - Gil Fuller
3. Not Really The Blues - Woody Herman
4. Krazy Kat - Artie Shaw
5. Similau - Artie Shaw
6. Well Oh Well - Lionel Hampton
7. Bear Mash Blues - Erskine Hawkins
8. Local 802 Blues - Metronome All Stars
9. Azure - Les Brown
10. That Old Black Magic - Les Brown
11. Cool Train - Lionel Hampton
12. Kingfish - Lionel Hampton
13. A Tone Parallel To Harlem - Duke Ellington
14. Poggerini - Bill Harris
15. Night And Day - Charlie Parker
16. Azure Te (Paris Blues) - Sauter-Finegan Orchestra
17. Stompin' At The Savoy - Woody Herman
18. Blackslider's Ball - Lucky Millinder
19. Paradise Squat - Count Basie
20. Young Blood - Stan Kenton
21. 23 North 82 West - Stan Kenton
22. Rocker - Gerry Mulligan
CD 10

1. Walking Shoes - Gerry Mulligan
2. Coop De Graas - Shorty Rogers
3. Chiquito Loco - Shorty Rogers
4. Old Folks - Charlie Parker with Dave Lambert
5. Four Others - Woody Herman
6. Stockholm Sweetnin' - Art Farmer-Clifford Brown
7. Happy Go Lucky Local - Duke Ellington
8. Lover Man - Stan Kenton
9. Taps Miller - Shorty Rogers
10. Sixteen Men Swingin' - Count Basie
11. Havanna Interlude - Leith Stevens
12. You For Me - Count Basie
13. The Loop - Sauter-Finegan Orchestra
14. Jersey Bounce - Benny Goodman
15. Paradoxe II - Jazz Group de Paris
16. Sprang - Ralph Burns among the JATP's
17. Harlem Air Shaft - Duke Ellington
18. Opus De Funk - Woody Herman
19. Sunset Tower - Stan Kenton
20. Two o'clock Jump - Harry James
21. Chinese Water Torture - Billy Byers
 

This amazing boxed collection of ten CDs (228 tracks from 96 bands!) is just one of several remarkable compilations assembled by André Francis and Jean Schwarz. It will arouse many questions in the listener’s mind. For example, why big bands? Just as the symphony orchestra developed into a generally agreed (and very large!) ensemble, so big bands evolved in the 1920s and 1930s to cater for audiences in large dance halls and to provide more potential for complex arrangements. With inevitable exceptions, the format tended to consist of four "sections" – trumpets, trombones, saxophones and rhythm – with an average total of between about 14 and 20 musicians. This line-up allowed arrangers plenty of scope but it also tended to create hackneyed methods of orchestration (which I mentioned in my recent review of Fletcher Henderson compilation Sweet and Hot) and which unfortunately persist today. As one progresses through these ten CDs, it is often wearisome to encounter many of the same old methods, which tend to make the music samey instead of innovative, stodgy instead of stimulating.

Listeners may also be stimulated to wonder what exactly a big band is – besides an ensemble with more personnel than a small group. Many big bands of the thirties were closer to dance bands than jazz groups, allowing little room for jazz solos. The album title may be ambiguous but the compilers clarify their intentions in the sleeve-note, which uses the description "The Golden Age of Big Bands in Jazz", stressing that this compilation rightly prizes the jazz content. So Glenn Miller’s orchestra, one of the most famous big bands of all, is only represented by two items (Runnin’ Wild and In the Mood) illustrating Miller’s jazzier moments. Incidentally, the well-known riff of In the Mood is anticipated by Don Redman’s Hot and Anxious (on CD2) seven years earlier.

The chronological arrangement of the tracks helps immensely in tracing the development of big-band music, although it only takes us up to 1955. The first track – a 1914 recording by James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra - predates by three years the first record by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which is often described as the first example of recorded jazz. Certainly there are some jazzy and syncopated elements in the playing by Europe’s band, which consisted of three violins, cello, cornet, clarinet, piano, banjo and drums. But you might categorise it as an example of ragtime, which is also the pigeonhole you could use for the second track – a 1917 recording by W. C. Handy’s orchestra playing one of his most enduring compositions.

Incidentally, these first two recordings are by ensembles containing respectively ten and thirteen musicians, suggesting that the description of "big band" has always been flexible. As the compilers observe, "in the early days, ten musicians constituted a big band". Nevertheless it’s a surprise to find two recordings by "Miles Davis and his Orchestra" which had only nine musicians. Wabash Stomp was recorded in 1937 by trumpeter Roy Eldridge with a studio group comprising only eight players. This may remind us of the fact that big bands often included "a band within a band" – like Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five – which gave the rest of the band a rest. Sticking strictly to its title, this compilation omits most of these smaller groups.

Another omission which might attract criticism is the general neglect of the big-band singers, who became an integral part of the swing era popularity of the big bands and developed talents like Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra, who went on to successful careers as soloists. There are occasional exceptions here – such as Jo Stafford singing Yes Indeed! with Tommy Dorsey’s band and Billy Eckstine singing Stormy Monday Blues with the Earl Hines orchestra. I enjoyed the three tracks by Chick Webb’s band, but there is no sign of their hit-making vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald. And I regret the lack of recognition given to vocalists like Martha Tilton who contributed so much to the success of such recordings as Benny Goodman’s And the Angels Sing and Loch Lomond.

Benny Goodman fans may also regret the absence of tunes like Sing, Sing, Sing or Clarinet à la King, although the Goodman orchestra deservedly appears six times in this collection. More numerous appearances are made by the bands of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton. But the only band that crops up on each of the ten discs is that of Duke Ellington, fortifying my view of his primacy in this field.

The sleeve-note describes some of the innovations that Ellington created in 1927 with such classics as Black and Tan Fantasy and Creole Love Call: "Some surprising new soundscapes emerge thanks to the use of muted trumpet and trombone and the wah-wah effect, the human voice, violent contrasts, sugar-sweet developments. Duke is not merely content with entertaining his audience, he tells some quite complicated stories too". Ellington set himself apart from most other bandleaders by continually exploring and expanding the role of the big band. I am particularly glad to find that the compilers have included some of Duke’s longest and most substantial "stories" – Reminiscing in Tempo, Black, Brown and Beige and A Tone Parallel to Harlem.

Even Ellington’s shorter pieces have many passages of inspired invention. Hot and Bothered from 1928, for example, of which the composer Constant Lambert said "I know of nothing in Ravel so dexterous in treatment as the varied solos in the middle of the ebullient Hot and Bothered and nothing in Stravinsky more dynamic than the final section". After starting in the two-beat rhythm familiar at the time, the tune suddenly takes off with Wellman Braud’s double bass punching out a propulsive four-in-a-bar which anticipates the swing era. And savour the remarkable range of tone colours in a track like Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue – the original version from 1937, which was reworked so miraculously to revive Duke’s career in 1956.

There were many really inventive bandleaders and arrangers who, as they arrived on the scene, pushed the big-band idiom forward. Thus Woody Herman added touches of comic anarchy to humanise the music, while Boyd Raeburn pushed the boundaries with his unexpected discords. The beboppers, featured strongly on the eighth CD, said goodbye to dance band conventions, and Shorty Rogers exemplified the tightly coordinated West Coast style. Lionel Hampton and Buddy Johnson foreshadowed the rhythm-and-blues which was to lead to rock ‘n’ roll. Throughout it all, leaders like Count Basie repeatedly reminded us of the virtues of good old-fashioned simple swing

The sound quality of these transfers is generally fine, and the enclosed booklet supplies copious notes as well as personnels and recording dates. This boxed set is a treasure trove of delights – including some dross amongst the gold (even the compilers admit that "in these chronological presentations of the history of jazz, the inventive has gone hand in hand with the mediocre"). Besides being a remarkable assemblage, this is an educational collection that is highly recommended. You are also recommended to shop around for it, as I have seen its price mentioned as everything from £22.40 to £38.79. – although it’s a bargain even at the higher price.

Tony Augarde

 



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