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

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The Essential Collection

Avid AVC 991



1. Really a Pain
2. Steady Roll Blues
3. I've Found a New Baby
4. There'll Be Some Changes Made
5. The Lonesome Road
6. Dip Your Brush in the Sunshine
7. The Big Butter and Egg Man
8. Someday, Sweetheart
9. At the Jazz Band Ball
10. Relaxin' at the Touro
11. Down to Steamboat Tennessee
12. Sugar
13. Little David, Play on your Harp
14. Can't We Be Friends?
15. Chicago
16. Hesitating Blues
17. The Wreck of the Old '97
18. American Patrol
19. Two O'Clock Jump
20. More Than You Know
21. Oh, Lady Be Good!
22. Riverside Blues
23. Rosetta
24. The Lady's in Love with You
25. Whistlin' the Blues

1. September in the Rain
2. Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down
3. Muskogee Blues
4. Rosie
5. Take Me to the Land of Jazz
6. I'd Climb the Highest Mountain
7. Red Hot Mama
8. Pee Wee Squawks
9. Sentimental Journey
10. Muggsy Special
11. You're Driving Me Crazy
12. Am I Blue?
13. How Come You Do Me Like You Do?
14. Sentimental Journey
15. Chicago
16. When the Saints Go Marching In
17. Blue Turning Grey Over You
18. Tin Roof Blues
19. Muskrat Ramble
20. St. Louis Blues
21. Rose Room
22. Memphis Blues
23. Royal Garden Blues


This double CD usefully surveys the playing career of cornettist Muggsy Spanier. Having played for the bands of Ted Lewis and Ben Pollack, he formed his own Ragtime Band in 1939 which had a wide influence upon revivalist jazz. The 16 recordings he made with that group are widely considered to be his most important, so it may be a pity that this compilation includes only four of them. On the other hand, it tries to cover other, less familiar areas of his work - from 1924 (with the Bucktown Five) to eight recordings from his Jazz Band in 1954.

His first recordings - in February, 1924 - show that he was already a strong lead player, although not a specially adventurous soloist. Yet his fluttering cornet solo on Steady Roll Blues establishes his individuality. And his playing often underlined the influence of ragtime. No wonder he called his most famous ensemble his "Ragtime Band". There are only two tunes by Ted Lewis's band (tracks I/5 and 6), in which Ted's vocals are rather corny but Muggsy's growling cornet adds some jazz atmosphere.

I am glad to find that Relaxin' at the Touro is among the four items from those classic 1939 recordings, as I was brought up on my father's 78rpm disc, featuring Spanier's laid-back muted blues playing (the Touro was the convalescent home where Muggsy recovered from an illness possibly brought on by alcohol). Then come a couple of tracks in which singer Lee Wiley's inviting voice is shadowed by Muggsy's interpolations.

The collection includes six 1946 tracks by a Jazz Ensemble led by Pee Wee Russell, who can be clearly heard on several of the other Spanier recordings. His squeaky style is parodied in Muggsy's Pee Wee Squawks.

The remaining tracks are all by bands led by Spanier - respectively called his Orchestra, his Ragtimers, and his Jazz Band. Some highlights include the hot Two O'Clock Jump (with some more good muted cornet from Muggsy); Oh, Lady Be Good!, underpinned by a sturdy baritone sax (Ernie Caceres?); and interpretations of Memphis Blues and Royal Garden Blues which remind us of the power of the traditional three-man front line. There are two versions of Sentimental Journey which sound very similar - probably they were alternate takes.

I would like to single out several fine musicians from these sessions but the sketchy sleeve-note gives no personnels - a sad omission. Apart for that, this is a worthwhile remastered compilation at budget price.

Tony Augarde 

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