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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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SY OLIVER
AND HIS ORCHESTRA

Mixed Doubles

Sounds of Yester Year DSOY 834

 

 


1. Annie Laurie
2. I'll Fly Away
3. Chiu Chiu
5. This Is Love
6. The Blue Tail Fly
7. Lazy Mississippi Moon
8. Intermezzo
9. I Found the One I Love
10. Arkansas Traveler
11. Mansion Over the Hilltop
12. I'm a Little Teapot
13. I've Been Working on the Railroad
14. I Like You
15. Easy Walker
16. I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen
17. Old Time Religion
18. Back Home
19. I'm the Guy That Loves Ya
20. Last Night in Town
21. Five Flats Furnished
22. You Tell Me Your Dream
23. Mixed Doubles
24. Lazy

Tracks 1-12
Charlie Shavers, Ernie Royal, Dick Perry, Mel Davis - Trumpets
Rod Levitt, Vince Forcetti, Frank Saracco or Mort Bullman - Trombones
Phil Bodner or Joe Soldo, George Dorsey - Alto saxes
Sam "The Man" Taylor, Seldon Powell - Tenor saxes
Dave McRae - Baritone sax
Dave Martin- Piano
George Barnes - Guitar
George Duvivier - Bass
Jimmy Crawford - Drums

Tracks 13-24
Jimmy Nottingham, Joe Newman, Dick Perry - Trumpets
Frank Saracco, Mort Bullman, Rod Levitt - Trombones
Phil Bodner, George Dorsey - Alto saxes
Seldon Powell, Budd Johnson - Tenor saxes
Dave McRae - Baritone sax
Dave Martin- Piano
George Barnes - Guitar
Joe Benjamin - Bass
Jimmy Crawford - Drums
Warren Smith - Percussion

 

Sy Oliver was a master of what might be called the big-band equivalent of close harmony singing. He wrote arrangements for large ensembles with consummate ease - especially for the reed section, as you can hear on this album. But he was a man of many parts: at various times trumpeter, singer, bandleader and composer (he wrote Opus One and Yes Indeed). He became famous as trumpeter and arranger with Jimmie Lunceford's band in the 1930s but he also wrote arrangements for Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.

The two sessions on this CD date respectively from 1960 and 1962. Tunes are typically taken at an easy mid-tempo, with plenty of arranged passages but comparatively few solos. The five jazzmen named on the front sleeve are not very conspicuous on the recordings. Sy seems to like arranging old traditional songs like The Blue Tail Fly and Old Time Religion, giving them a contemporary twist. In fact the album begins with Annie Laurie, which was written in 1838. But a tune like Chiu Chiu sounds very like a Billy May arrangement, with swooping saxophones and a honking tenor sax solo.

Oliver often adds a touch of humour to his arrangements, as in I'm a Little Teapot with its merry tinkling (celeste or glockenspiel?) or the far-from-heavy I've Been Working on the Railroad which sounds like easy work. The title-track gives some welcome solo space to guitarist George Barnes. The musicianship on the album is impeccable and the arrangements show many signs of ingenuity. However, the sameness of the rhythms and the comparative paucity of solos tends to seem monotonous. You might call this "big-band smooth jazz".

Tony Augarde



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