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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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Saratoga Shout

Living Era CDAJA 5658






1. Savoy Shout
2. It's Tight Like That
3. New Call Of The Freaks
4. Feelin' The Spirit
5. Jersey Lightning
6. The Way He Loves Is Just Too Bad
7. Doctor Blues
8. Saratoga Shout
9. Song Of The Swanee
10. Give Me Your Telephone Number
11. Higginbotham Blues
12. Louisiana Swing
13. On Revival Day
14. Muggin' Lightly
15. Panama
16. High Tension
17. Saratoga Drag
18. Ease On Down
19. You Rascal You
20. Freakish Blues
21. The Darktown Strutters' Ball
22. Ghost Of The Freaks
23. Hokus Pokus
24. Primitive 25. Ol' Man River

Collective personnel

Luis Russell - Piano
Louis Metcalf, Henry "Red" Allen - Trumpets, vocals
Bill Coleman, Otis Johnson, Robert Cheek, Gus Aiken, Leonard Davis - Trumpets
Rex Stewart - Cornet
J.C. Higginbotham - Trombone, vocals
Jimmy Archey, Dicky Wells, Nat Story - Trombones
Charlie Holmes - Clarinet, alto sax, soprano sax
Albert Nicholas - Clarinet, alto sax
Henry Jones - Alto sax
Teddy Hill - Tenor sax
Greely Walton, Bingie Madison - Tenor saxes, clarinets
Will Johnson - Banjo, guitar
Lee Blair - Guitar
Bass Moore - Tuba
"Pops" Foster - Bass
Paul Barbarin - Drums, vibes
Fats Pichnon, Andy Razaf, Sonny Woods, Palmer Brothers - Vocals

This collection of recordings from 1929 to 1934 charts the heyday of Luis Russellís band, before it became Louis Armstrongís backing band and sacrificed much of its individuality. In fact all but five of these recordings date from the three years between 1929 and 1931, when the band was arguably at its very best. It benefited not only from Luis Russellís characterful compositions and tight arrangements but also from the contributions of some notable soloists, including Henry "Red" Allen, Charlie Holmes and J. C. Higginbotham.

The first two tracks are actually by a small group called Luis Russell and his Burning Eight, filling in for a record date that Luisís former employer, King Oliver, couldnít make. In Savoy Shout, trombonist J. C. Higginbotham establishes himself as a soloist to reckon with, while trumpeter Louis Metcalf exhibits some of the wildness which Henry "Red" Allen was later to inject into the band. Itís Tight Like That owes more to the New Orleans tradition of collective improvisation.

The remaining tracks are mostly by "Luis Russell and his Orchestra", although it was hardly a big band in the later meaning of the phrase, never exceeding a dozen members. Tracks like Feeliní the Spirit and Jersey Lightning have an infectious exuberance, even though Russellís arrangements often have sections playing in unison, which sometimes results in stodginess. The musicians certainly played with enviable precision, but this didnít stop players like Henry "Red" Allen and Albert Nicholas from spicing things up with lively solos. On later tracks the same service is fulfilled by such individuals as Rex Stewart and Charlie Holmes (who was with Luis Russell on-and-off from 1929 to 1940). On most tracks the team of bassist "Pops" Foster and drummer Paul Barbarin keep the rhythm moving. Tracks like On Revival Day and Panama prove the value of Fosterís four-in-a-bar double bass.

Despite its short effective life and its decline into a mere backing band, the Luis Russell Orchestra played a significant role in the development of the style which flourished in the 1930s into "swing". The evidence is clear in nearly 80 minutes of recordings on this CD.

Tony Augarde



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