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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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All Star Sessions

Avid AMSC 980



1. Wheatleigh Hall
2. Sumphin'
3. Con Alma
4. Haute Mon'
5. Steeplechase
6. Tour de Force
7. Ballad Medley: (a) I'm Through With Love, (b) The Nearness Of You, (c) Moonlight In Vermont, (d) Summertime

1. Dizzy Atmosphere
2. Ballad Medley: (a) I'm Through With Love, (b) Without a Word of Warning, (c) Sweet Lorraine, (d) Love Walked In, (e) September Song
3. Ballad Medley: (a) On the Alamo, (b) Stompin' at the Savoy, (c) This Time the Dream's on Me, (d) Time after Time, (e) Gone with the Wind
4. The Way You Look Tonight
5. Rio Pakistan
6. It's Only A Paper Moon
7. Purple Sounds

Dizzy Gillespie - Trumpet, plus:
CD1, tracks 1-4
Sonny Rollins - Tenor sax (tracks 1, 2)
Sonny Stitt - Tenor sax (tracks 3, 4)
Ray Bryant - Piano
Thomas Bryant - Bass
Charlie Persip - Drums
CDI, tracks 5-7
Roy Eldridge, Harry Edison - Trumpets
Oscar Peterson - Piano
Herb Ellis - Guitar
Ray Brown - Bass
Buddy Rich - Drums
CDII, tracks 1-4
Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Paul Gonsalves - Tenor saxes
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Wendell Marshall - Bass
J. C. Heard - Drums
CDII, tracks 5-7
Stuff Smith - Violin
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Paul West - Bass
J. C. Heard - Drums

I put this album to one side, because I had recently reviewed a Dizzy Gillespie CD, and thought it might be too soon to review another one. However, now that I've belatedly listened to it, I feel impelled to review it, if only to publicise its riches. It's a cornucopia of informal sessions featuring Dizzy Gillespie but also including many other renowned musicians. It is not clear if these recordings were produced by Norman Granz but they have the carefree atmosphere of many of those Granz sessions where jazzmen are let loose in the studio and allowed to set their own agenda.

The "Ballad Medley" was often a feature of Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic and the three medleys on this double album typify the joys of such a grouping. I'm particularly glad to find two versions of I'm Through With Love, a beautiful song apparently composed in 1931 but almost forgotten until Billy Wilder got Marilyn Monroe to sing it in the film Some Like It Hot. The first version on this album is by Roy Eldridge, the second by Stan Getz, and they both do it justice.

In contrast to the ballad medleys are the tearaway jam sessions for which Norman Granz was also famous (some would say "notorious"). The outstanding example here is Steeplechase, a 17-minutes-plus performance (or endurance test) in which trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge and Harry Edison compete in stamina and invention at a very fast tempo, driven along by Oscar Peterson's trio with Buddy Rich added on drums. Some listeners may find it excessive, especially when the trumpeters swap four bars each and continually raise the stakes, but it is undoubtedly electrifying.

The compilation begins with four tracks from a 1957 LP originally entitled Duets, in which Dizzy plays two tracks each with the two Sonnies: Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt. It's a close-run thing but Rollins just wins on points.

The three-trumpet album was recorded in 1955 and called Tour de Force, which it certainly was. If Steeplechase goes too far over the top for your tastes, you can still enjoy the easygoing title-track and the delicate ballad medley. The "All Star Sessions" label continues to be justified by the first four tracks on the second CD, which come from a 1957 album called Sittin' In. This offers the treat of three top tenorists, including Paul Gonsalves sounding as breathy as Ben Webster in Without a Word of Warning and Coleman Hawkins displaying his maturity on such tunes as September Song. The Way You Look Tonight is taken at a breakneck speed, with a nice touch near the end when the saxophones play Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man behind Dizzy's solo.

The collection ends with three tracks from another 1957 LP: Dizzy Gillespie and Stuff Smith, which originally contained five tracks. Despite the rough recording quality, the vigour of Smith's violin is well matched with Gillespie's equally lusty trumpet.

With a recommended price of £6.99 (and currently even cheaper through Amazon), this is a bargain as good as most of Avid's other heaven-sent releases of vintage jazz material. Buy now while stocks last!

Tony Augarde 

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