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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 Big Bands – Volume 1
Basie – Calloway – Millinder – Ellington

Storyville Films DVD 26000




Duke Ellington

1. I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good
2. Bli Blip
3. Flamingo
4. Hot Chocolate (Cottontail)
5. Jam session (C Jam Blues)
Cab Calloway

1. Foo a Little Ballyhoo
2. Walkin’ with My Honey
3. Blow Top Blues
4. I Was Here When You Left Me
5. We the Cats Shall Hep Ya
6. Blues in the Night
7. The Skunk Song
8. Minnie the Moocher
9. Virginia, Georgia and Caroline
Count Basie

1. Take Me Back Baby
2. Air Mail Special
Lucky Millinder

1. Hello Bill
2. I Want a Big Fat Mama
3. Four or Five Times
4. Shout Sister, Shout

These are all short films known as ‘soundies’. They were made to be played on a device like a juke box, but with a movie screen. The pictures and sound quality vary from film to film, but to the student of big-band music they demonstrate that, to all but specialist audiences, the band has always been secondary to vocalists, dancers or any other form of entertainment. What is amply demonstrated is that all these bands were staffed with top class musicians and jazz soloists that could hold their own with anyone.

The Ellington set has a very fine chorus from Ben Webster on Cottontail, and on other tracks Barney Bigard, Ray Nance and Rex Stewart are featured.

The Cab Calloway films are very commercial and the excellent band is used mainly to back Cab on vocals and various singers, dancers and vocal groups. I would bet money that their ‘soundies’ made the most money, but I would have loved to hear more from the band!

Bill Basie has only two tracks, but for my money they are the best on the DVD. With soloists like Lester Young, ‘Lips’ Page, Buck Clayton, Harry Edison and the leader, this has to be an exceptional band.

Lucky Millinder, of whom I know little, seems to me like a poor man’s Cab Calloway, but he does have the benefit of having a couple of vocals from Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Although they are not identified in the sleeve note, the band is good and it has some excellent soloists.

Danish jazz fan Karl Knudsen, who collected and edited the material that made it possible to make this film, has done a great service to the serious student of the classic big band.

Don Mather



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