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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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BUCK CLAYTON

Complete Legendary Jam
Sessions Master Takes

Solar 4569904

 

 


CD1
1. Moten Swing
2. Sentimental Journey
3. Lean Baby
4. The Huckle-Buck
5. Robbin's Nest

CD2
1. Christopher Columbus
2. How Hi the Fi
3. Blue Moon
4. Jumpin' at the Woodside
5. Don't Be That Way

CD3
1. Undecided
2. Blue and Sentimental
3. Rock-a-bye Basie
4. Out of Nowhere
5. Blue Lou
6. Broadway
7. All the Cats Join In
8. After Hours
9. Don't You Miss Your Baby

CD1
Buck Clayton, Joe Newman - Trumpets
Urbie Green - Trombone
Benny Powell - Trombone (tracks 1,2)
Henderson Chambers - Trombone (tracks 3-5)
Lem Davis - Alto sax
Julian Dash - Tenor sax
Charlie Fowlkes - Baritone sax
Sir Charles Thompson - Piano, celeste
Freddie Green - Guitar
Walter Page - Bass
Jo Jones - Drums

CD2
Buck Clayton - Trumpet
Joe Newman - Trumpet (tracks 1, 4-5)
Joe Thomas - Trumpet (tracks 2-3)
Urbie Green - Trombone
Henderson Chambers - Trombone (track 1)
Trummy Young - Trombone (tracks 2-5)
Lem Davis - Alto sax
Julian Dash - Tenor sax (tracks 1-3)
Al Cohn - Tenor sax (tracks 2-3)
Coleman Hawkins - Tenor sax (tracks 4-5)
Woody Herman - Clarinet (tracks 2-3)
Charlie Fowlkes - Baritone sax (tracks 1, 4-5)
Sir Charles Thompson - Piano, celeste (track 1)
Jimmy Jones - Piano, celeste (tracks 2-3)
Billy Kyle - Piano, celeste (tracks 4-5)
Freddie Green - Guitar (tracks 1, 4-5)
Steve Jordan - Guitar (tracks 2-3)
Walter Page - Bass (tracks 1-3)
Milt Hinton - Bass (tracks 4-5)
Jo Jones - Drums

CD3
Buck Clayton - Trumpet
Joe Newman - Trumpet (tracks 1-2)
Billy Butterfield - Trumpet (tracks 7-9)
Ruby Braff - Cornet (tracks 3-9)
Urbie Green. Trummy Young - Trombones (tracks 1-2)
Bennie Green, Dick Harris - Trombones (tracks 3-6)
J. C. Higginbotham - Trombone (tracks 7-9)
Tyree Glenn - Trombone, vibes (tracks 7-9)
Lem Davis - Alto sax (tracks 1-2)
Coleman Hawkins - Tenor sax
Buddy Tate - Tenor sax (tracks 3-6)
Julian Dash - Tenor sax (tracks 7-9)
Charlie Fowlkes - Baritone sax (tracks 1-2)
Al Waslohn - Piano (tracks 3-6)
Ken Kersey - Piano (tracks 7-9)
Freddie Green - Guitar (tracks 1-2))
Steve Jordan - Guitar (tracks 3-9)
Milt Hinton - Bass (tracks 1-6)
Walter Page - Bass (tracks 7-9)
Jo Jones - Drums (tracks 1-6)
Bobby Donaldson - Drums (tracks 7-9)
Jack Ackerman - Tap dance (track 3)
Jimmy Rushing - Vocals (track 9)

 

The Oxford English Dictionarey dates the phrase "mainstream jazz" from 1957, but the genre actually arose earlier in the 1950s, when John Hammond organised a series of recording sessions featuring musicians who had made their names in earlier decades but now seemed in danger of being bypassed by such innovations as bebop. These sessions included some in 1953 and 1954 under the leadership of trombonist Vic Dickenson, although the star of those sessions for me was cornettist Ruby Braff. Braff later recorded with Buck Clayton, who led a number of "mainstream" sessions between 1953 and 1956. It was an ideal time for such extended jam session recordings, as the new LPs allowed much longer playing times than previously.

Now we have the master takes of those Clayton recordings in this box of three CDs, and it is interesting to compare them with the Dickenson sets. The latter felt more informal than Buck's sessions, as Clayton arranged each tune to give the music some structure. This makes the music less spontaneous than the Dickenson recordings. The sleeve-notes say that George Avakian (who planned the recordings with John Hammond) "rehearsed the band to develop a clear sense of dynamics and to make sure that the songs' introductions would remain crisp and clear". Vic Dickenson's group seemed to work happily without much rehearsal. Another major difference is that Dickenson led a septet whereas Clayton's line-up comprises between ten and twelve men, generally with two trumpeters and two trombonists, making for a heavier ensemble.

So I prefer Dickenson over Clayton for the former's greater freedom, but Buck's arrangements are not so obtrusive as to hinder the soloists, and all three discs are full of delightful solos. As a prominent member of Count Basie's band, Buck chose seven current or former Basie alumni, including such dependably swinging rhythm section members as Freddie Green, Walter Page and Jo Jones. Unfortunately, as in most jam sessions, the drummer doesn't get many opportunities to solo, although Jo Jones plays a short break on Christopher Columbus and swaps fours with other members of the group in Broadway.

The opening Moten Swing is indelibly associated with Count Basie, and Sir Charles Thompson adopts Basie's economic piano style for the introduction. The first solo is by Lem Davis, a little-known altoist who justifiably became better known from these recordings but then seems to have sunk into near-oblivion. He deserves to be more famous, as his work on these albums is outstandingly good. His solo on Buck Clayton's How High the Fi has beboppish touches but fits in well with the overall swing mood. This track also has a notable solo from a clarinettist called Woody Herman.

Ruby Braff is probably the most striking soloist on the third CD (his solo on Blue Lou is impeccable), although Coleman Hawkins and Buddy Tate both make memorable tenor-sax statements. Hawk's solo on Undecided flows seamlessly from start to finish, and he perfectly matches the adjectives in the title of Blue and Sentimental. One problem with this set is that the soloists are not specified, so it is sometimes difficult to tell who is playing when. The third CD contains some surprises, with a tap dancer on Rock-a Bye Basie, and Basie vocalist Jimmy Rushing giving his all to Don't You Miss Your Baby.

In a way, the most satisfying tracks are the longest ones, like The Hucklebuck (20 minutes) and Christopher Columbus (an incredible 29 minutes), because that is where the musicians can stretch out the most and produce relaxed playing of superb quality.

Even if I marginally prefer the Vic Dickenson sessions, these Buck Claytton recordings are undoubted classics and helped to establish the importance of mainstream jazz. They deserve a place in every jazz fan's collection.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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