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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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CHARLIE BARNET and
JERI SOUTHERN

The Navy Swings

SOUNDS OF YESTER YEAR
DSOY888

 

 

1. Introduction [1:04]
2. I'll Remember April [3:17]
3. You Better Go Now [3:23]
4. Easy Pickin's [4:19]
5. I've Got Five Dollars [1:43]
6. Closer: Redskin Rhumba [1:06]
7. Introduction [1:03]
8. Lester Leaps In [3:03]
9. Mad About the Boy [3:02]
10. On Bear Hill [4:02]
11. Everything But You [2:47]
12. Closer: Redskin Rhuma [1:03]
13. Introduction [0:56]
14. Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie [3:39]
15. Come by Sunday [3:11]
16. I Remember You [3:20]
17. An Evening in Azerbasia [2:54]
18. Closer: Redskin Rhumba [1:05]
19. Introduction [0:48]
20. Rapskallion [3:42]
21. It Must Be True [3:43]
22. Hoppy [3:51]
23. An Occasional Man [1:47]
24. Closer: Redskin Rhumba [1:06]

Charlie Barnet and his Jazzpickers (Clark Terry (trumpet); Charlie Barnet (alto sax); Paul Gonsalves (tenor sax); Sir Charles Thompson (piano); Dempsey Wright (guitar); Harry Babasin (cello); Ben Tucker (bass); Bill Douglass (drums); Jeri Southern (piano) and vocals (with unknown bass and drums)
rec. Hollywood, CA, early 1958 [59:00]

 

During the 1940s and 1950s the U.S. military produced radio shows to promote the different services as fun, intelligent places to be. This CD is a collection of four of these radio shows in their entirety, complete with the announcements and advertisements for the Navy. These include ads for the navy's officers' training school and the "jet fuelled, nuclear powered" modern technology. To try to keep the show moving the announcer talks with Charlie Barnet and Jeri Southern between songs. The jokes are plentiful, dated and corny. Jeri is presented as a man-starved girl from the corn fields of Middle America, who is completely taken by the announcer, and how attractive he is in his Navy uniform. Charlie Barnet is presented as a self-deprecating sad sack who just can't keep up with his musician's charm and talent when compared to the hunky but dapper naval officer announcer. Considering his real-life loose cannon reputation, this is marginally amusing.

The real reason to listen has nothing to do with Korean War era military ads or corny jokes. If you're a fan of vocal jazz or torch songs, the Jeri Southern numbers do not disappoint. She was known for her sultry vocals and smooth piano playing. For those who aren't familiar, think of Diana Krall. The two women have similar voices and piano technique. Southern stays right in her wheelhouse for these recordings, lighting the fire with one torch song after another, along with the slightly Latin-tinged An Occasional Man.

Charlie Barnet was one of the premier saxophone players of the swing era, but he tended towards bebop. Many of the songs here are fine examples of his small group progressive style, with Charlie playing alto sax, Clark Terry on trumpet, Paul Gonsalves on tenor, Dempsey Wright on guitar and a rhythm section that includes piano, bass, drum, and cello. The most disappointing aspect of these recordings is that it seems the Navy didn't want to let the band play for more than 3 minutes. Even though they are supposedly "live" in context of the program, many of the tracks simply are faded out so the sponsors can have their say. I'll Remember April and Lester Leaps In both suffer greatly from the early fade as the performances are exquisite but ended prematurely. When the band is allowed to finish, as with On Bear Hill or Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie, there are some exquisite moments.

The recording quality is fine. There isn't much noticeable tape hiss or vinyl noise. However, as is common with jazz recordings from the 1950s, there is a distinct lack of high end fidelity. This doesn't really detract from the listening experience though. The music sounds like it came from a coffee shop serviced by a black-clad beret wearing barista sporting a soul patch. You might want to snap your fingers instead of applauding at the end of the songs before the silly banter starts back up.

The liner notes are lacking, but that is likely because the recording details aren't known with certainty. There are some very nice moments on the disc, and if the listener was in the Navy or has an appreciation for nostalgic advertising and corny jokes then this should be a fun way to take a trip down memory lane.

Patrick Gary



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