Oh boy, this album is hot! Timeless. Being a younger guy, I didn't get into jazz and blues until a little bit later in my life, although my father was into it and I was definitely exposed to the great music that came before 1968. I have tons of LPs from Krupa and Buddy Guy, but it wasn't until I heard this album that I really decided to break them out and give everything a good listen.
Gene Krupa is, to me, like Elvis of the swing era. Yes there were other greats (Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Dorsey brothers, Glenn Miller, etc) but Mr. G provided a framework to change the direction of American music. I've loaned this album to people who thought Brian Setzer was what swing was all about and their lives were changed.
Regarding the tracks, I don't think there's a clunker on the entire album. I don't think there's a ton of cohesion between the tracks, although I don't believe it was necessarily recorded that way either. Then again, I could be missing something so please comment and fill in the gaps if you know! Oh, I know what's common about these cuts, they're all iconic swing played by expert musicians.
Drummer Man opens with a bang, Let Me Off Uptown. As others have reviewed, there's a great dialoge with O'Day and Eldridge that sets the context of this song; it's edgy and primal, for 1956! Captures the feeling of the swing era. A personal favorite of mine is track 3, Opus 1. Real classy big band sound. O'Day's dynamic vocals inspire goosebumps, and the layers of horns over Krupa's knockin' drums create a mood that you just can't get from any other source.
Drummin' Man and Drum Boogie show off Krupa's talents, even being a bit later in years during the session. If you can get your hands on an LP, it's interesting to compare his work and style over the years. Another favorite of mine is Leap Us Leap, where Krupa takes a backseat to the band for the most part, and you can see how diverse and skilled he is at combining rhythm and melody into his playing. It's subtle but drummers, bassists and pianists will probably really appreciate this one. Wire Brush Stomp sizzles, like a a refined explosion. While Woody Herman's Thundering Herd might take the prize for volume, speed and impact, Gene Krupa's band shows they can lay rubber with the best of 'em.
Track 11, That's What You Think is really the only ballad, and makes a nice shift, some time to relax, before the closing track of After You've Gone, where I think Eldridge had to quit because he wore out his trumpet! Not only is his playing powerful and crisp, but on a 2nd listen through take note of the backing horns and how tight the rest of the band sounds behind him. It's a testament to the hard work these professionals put into their craft, and how much Krupa demanded of them.
Thank you Verve for putting this amazing session on CD.