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



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PEE WEE RUSSELL

Four Classic Albums Plus

AVID JAZZ AMSC1056

 

 

CD1
1-9: `Jazz At Storyville Vol 1'
1. Love Is Just Around The Corner
2. Squeeze Me
3. Ballin' The Jack
4. I Would Do Anything For You
5. California Here I Come
6. St. James Infirmary
7. Baby, Won't You Please Come Home
8. The Lady's In Love With You
9. Struttin' With Some Barbecue
10-15: `Jazz At Storyville Vol 2'
10. St. Louis Blues
11. Sweet Lorraine
12. Sentimental Journey
13. If I Had You
14. Coquette
15. The Lady Is A Tramp
16. Muskeegie Blues from Pee Wee Russell Plays Pee Wee
17. Pee Wee's Song from Pee Wee Russell Plays Pee Wee
18. Exactly Like You from Pee Wee Russell Plays Pee Wee

CD2
1-9: `Portrait of Pee Wee'
1. That Old Feeling
2. I've Got The World On A String
3. Exactly Like You
4. It All Depends On You
5. If I Had You
6. Out Of Nowhere
7. Pee Wee's Blues
8. I Used To Love You
9. Oh No!
10-21: `Pee Wee Russell Plays'
10. Pee Wee's Blues
11. What's The Pitch
12. Dreamin' And Schemin'
13. Cutie Pie
14. Oh No
15. Pee Wee's Song
16. Oh Yes
17. Missy
18. Are You Here?
19. Write Me A Love Song Baby
20. This Is It
21. But Why?
22. I'd Climb The Highest Mountain from Pee Wee Russell Plays Pee Wee
Pee Wee Russell (clarinet) with Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff, Vic Dickenson, Bud Freeman, Red Richards, Nat Pierce, Dick Cary, Buck Clayton Eddie Condon, George Wettling and others
Recorded 1952 to 1959 [79:49 + 78:55]

 

What we have here is a two-disc collection of Pee Wee Russell LPs made between 1952 and 1959; Jazz at Storyville Volumes 1 and 2, Pee Wee Russell plays Pee Wee, Portrait of Pee Wee and Pee Wee Russell Plays. There's necessarily a lot of Pee Wee one way or another in those titles, so you'd better check your LPs and/or CD reissue shelves to see how much you have and whether you need to acquire this one. I should add that it is heroically inexpensive, packed to the rafters with music, and features reproduced original LP notes. I'm not a fan of the way this last has been done (very messy typographically and you can't find the personnel easily) but I'm happy to let that go by for the pleasure this series continues to give; it's surely one of the very best mainstream reissue marques going.

This is largely Chicagoan cum Condonite jazz at its most effortless. The typical line up for the Storyville tracks ensures a solidly swinging couple of dates. Trombonist Ephy Resnick is the least well known, and not terribly good, but Ruby Braff leads well. Kenny John unfortunately is a liability at the drums, clattering away as if he's just wandered down a dark alley into a line of garbage bins. Red Richards takes good boogie piano solos and is enjoyable to listen to. It's a decent set but a bit frenetic (California Here I Come is terrible). Listen out, though, for Russell's mordant trills, his strangulated yelps, ensemble rococo squawks, and a triumphant solo (his best) on the second Storyville session on The Lady is a Tramp. If you want to know what he sounds like, he sounds like Picasso would if he'd played the clarinet. Pure Cubism.

For the Portrait date he's joined by coevals Braff, Bud Freeman, Vic Dickenson, Nat Pierce (whose arrangements these are) et al. The band is vastly better, the club atmosphere replaced by the studio, and the soloing consistently probing and important. Pee Wee's Blues is outstanding and don't overlook Pierce's solo. The final album is, uniquely given over to a session of all-Russell compositions. Buck Clayton plays a sympathetic and understated trumpet lead, and Bud Freeman (excellent, and very wistful on But Why?) is on hand, alongside Dickenson. It's in effect Eddie Condon's band, with the lush himself in the guitar seat. The clarinettist is at his most romantic and lyrical (= squawk free) on Pee Wee's Song which seems to get close to a side of him seldom heard on disc.

Jonathan Woolf



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