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

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Nimbus NI 2712



1. Caravan
2. Ode to a Friend
3. The Peaceful Poet
4. Together We Rise
5. Hot
6. Hookin' It
7. Waltzing at Denison
8. Walkin' with Buddy

Louie Bellson - Drums (leader)
Robert Millikan, Brian O'Flaherty, Larry Lunetta, Danny Cahn, Glenn Drewes - Trumpets
Don Mikkelsen, Hale Rood, Clinton Sharman, Keith O'Quinn - Trombones
Joe Roccisano, Don Menza, Jack Stuckey, George Opalisky, Kenny Hitchcock - Saxes
John Bunch -Piano
Jay Leonhart - Bass
Clark Terry - Flugelhorn (tracks 1, 8)


Louie Bellson was a drumming force of nature. Along with Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa he was considered one of the top three big-band drummers. In fact he was more. Sitting behind a striking display of percussion with twin bass drums, he was an instrumental virtuoso performer.

Fronting a 17-piece swinging orchestra of veterans and relative newcomers, Bellson originally recorded Hot in 1987 on Music Masters, which has been re-released on Nimbus. Among a combination of Bellson originals, some obscure titles from band members, a Bob Florence number penned for the Buddy Rich band, and the Ellington/Tizol/Mills classic Caravan, the CD offers a tantalizing blend of the Bellson's band creativity.

With Clark Terry as guest soloist on the cuts that bookend the CD, Caravan and Walkin' with Buddy (Bellson's own tune), we can discern the impact his presence has on the band. This reunion of Bellson and Terry, who were colleagues in the Duke Ellington orchestra of 1951/52, provided the excitement to this occasion and pushed the band's brass section into a biting energy. In addition Terry's solos in both selections offer his inimitable technique and sound.

Bellson's own compositions, The Peaceful Poet, Together We Rise and Waltzing with Denison are among the over 1000 works that he wrote. While these three tunes have not become standards in the repertoire of big-bands, they do offer some band members the opportunity to show their chops, especially Don Menza's tenor sax in Poet and Denison, plus brilliant trumpet solos by Brian O'Flaherty and Glenn Drewes in Rise.

The disc's title tune, Hot, is a Bob Florence original with a signature unison reed section, a snappy alto solo from George Young, and an attacking tenor passage from Kenny Hitchcock. John Bunch on piano provided some strong single note playing in his underappreciated elegant style. Regrettably Bunch died earlier this year on March 30.

From a teenage wunderkind to one of the great jazz drummers, Louie Bellson's playing never failed to hold the listeners' interest and this disc is no exception.

Pierre Giroux

See also the review by Tony Augarde


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