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Reviews Written by
Bob Wright "Bob Wright" (Hitchin, Herts, England)

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It Might As Well Be Swing
It Might As Well Be Swing
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £13.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Two masters at work, plus Quincy Jones and the marvellous Basie band, 11 May 2015
With these 2 masters involved (plus arrangements by Quincy Jones - still, at the time, at the top of his game working with big bands) plus a programme of good numbers, this had to be a major winner. It's not perfect. As a great Basie fan, I would have preferred more solos than here: Harry "Sweets" Edison - expressly requested by Sinatra - produces his fine brand of trumpet work, but there were many other fine soloists in the band at this time who could (and really should) have had a chance - especially since there should have been plenty of space for them (after all, the album barely manages to stretch to 27 minutes). Incidentally, with reference to another review here, the late Chris Sheridan's masterpiece "Count Basie - A Bio-Discography" (1986) gives the recording dates as 9, 10 and 12 June 1964, not August.


A Day in New York
A Day in New York
Price: £18.41

5.0 out of 5 stars The marvellous fruits of a single day's work, 8 May 2015
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This review is from: A Day in New York (Audio CD)
On 16 November 1957, clarinettist Tony Scott went into a studio with pianist Bill Evans, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Paul Motian and recorded the 24 numbers on this quite outstanding 2-CD set. Originally Anthony Sciacca, of Sicilian heritage, Tony - with a reputation as not only a talented clarinettist, but also the loudest clarinettist around - had been very active on the New York scene for more than a decade, working with Charlie Parker, amongst others, and embracing bebop. He claimed to have discovered Bill Evans, and was certainly very supportive of him in these early days of his illustrious career. On 6 tracks, Tony plays baritone saxophone. And, as well as the musicians already mentioned, bassist Henry Grimes replaces Milt Hinton on 6 tracks; trombonist Jimmy Knepper pops up on 12; baritone saxophonist Sahib Shihab, on 7; and trumpeter Clark Terry, on 3. Thoroughly recommended.


Live in Paris - March/April 1960 (2CD)
Live in Paris - March/April 1960 (2CD)
Price: £18.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Most welcome further recordings of a wonderful big band, 7 May 2015
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Quincy Jones had worked and studied in Europe in the late-1950s and, after his return to the US, he jumped at the chance of coming to Europe again in 1959 - this time to lead a big band working on a new Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer musical, "Free and Easy". The show, which was scheduled to play in Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, before moving to London and then to Broadway, opened in mid-December 1959. The band was a success - with its star-studded personnel (including trumpeters Clark Terry and Benny Bailey; trombonists Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson and Melba Liston; saxophonists Phil Woods, Budd Johnson and Sahib Shihab; Les Spann doubling on flute and guitar; Patti Bown on piano; and Buddy Catlett and Joe Harris on bass and drums), it could hardly have been anything else. But, due to prevailing circumstances, the show itself was not and it was pulled in February 1960. Quincy and his band were left stranded. They decided to stay on in Europe and secured bookings to play over the next few weeks in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Yugoslavia (as it then was), Finland, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Germany again, France, Switzerland and Portugal.

A number of "live" recordings of the band on their travels have previously been available (including a concert in Zurich where Jazz at the Philharmonic impresario Norman Granz arranged for the band to be on the same bill as Nat "King" Cole - a CD being released on the Montreux Jazz label in 2013), as well as a studio recording - "I Dig Dancers" - made in Paris. This well-filled 2-CD set brings together further recordings of the band - mainly playing over 3 days in March in a Paris studio before small audiences ("one man and a dog", as one described, although the recordings show that the audiences were somewhat larger); plus a handful of numbers in concert in the Paris Olympia Theatre. There are 30 tracks in all. This is a most welcome addition to the body of other recordings already available of this terrific band during this period. Thoroughly recommended.


Bags of Soul (4CD)
Bags of Soul (4CD)
Offered by nagiry
Price: £11.77

5.0 out of 5 stars A superb set with some of Milt's finest - and most swinging - playing, 3 May 2015
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This review is from: Bags of Soul (4CD) (Audio CD)
Anyone who thinks of Milt Jackson – nicknamed “Bags” – solely in terms of his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet will have their eyes opened wide by this marvellous 4-CD set. Milt was one of the great exponents of vibes and one of the great, swinging jazz improvisers. The set opens with a handful of early tracks from 1948 with alto saxophonist Sonny Stitt. Moving into the 50s, there are a dozen tracks from the first sessions of the MJQ with pianist John Lewis (when MJQ still stood for the Milt Jackson Quartet and not yet the Modern Jazz Quartet), and then sessions with alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, with pianist Horace Silver and with guitarist Barney Kessel. From 1955 comes a terrific album with Frank Wess (on flute, and, on one track, tenor saxophone). And last (and certainly not least), there is material, issued on 2 superb LPs, that Milt recorded in 1956 with the splendid tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson (playing some of his greatest, and most accessible, music, and with a gorgeous tone), with Hank Jones on piano, and a rhythm team of Wendell Marshall (b) and Kenny Clarke (d). (My only reservation is that one track from those LPs is not here - a lovely ballad feature by Lucky Thompson on "What's New", presumably omitted simply because Milt did not play on that number.) An excellent 40-page booklet accompanies the set.


Four Classic Albums Plus (Sarah Vaughan And Billy Eckstine Sing The Best Of Irving Berlin / Billy Eckstine & Quincy Jones At Basin Street East / Basie-Eckstine Incorporated / Once More With Feeling)
Four Classic Albums Plus (Sarah Vaughan And Billy Eckstine Sing The Best Of Irving Berlin / Billy Eckstine & Quincy Jones At Basin Street East / Basie-Eckstine Incorporated / Once More With Feeling)
Price: £8.19

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent collection of albums providing plenty of variety, 2 May 2015
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This well-filled 2-CD set of 47 tracks finds Billy on good form, in good voice and in terrific company, in a collection of albums which provide plenty of variety. The earliest set here has Sarah Vaughan and Billy singing a choice selection of material by Irving Berlin, backed by an orchestra arranged and conducted by Hal Mooney. From 1959 comes “Basie / Eckstine, Inc”, with the cracking Basie band of that time (with arrangements by Bobby Tucker, Quincy Jones and Budd Johnson) providing a swinging backing to Billy’s singing. Billy May takes over the arranging and conducting responsibilities on “Once More with Feeling” from 1960, and, from the same year, there is about two-thirds of the album “No Cover ... No Minimum” with Bobby Tucker and his orchestra. Finally, from October 1961 comes “Billy Eckstine & Quincy Jones at Basin Street”, with Quincy leading another very strong band. A really cracking set.


Stuff Smith-Dizzy Gillespie-Oscar Peterson
Stuff Smith-Dizzy Gillespie-Oscar Peterson

5.0 out of 5 stars A vintage set from the 1950s, 2 May 2015
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Violinist Stuff Smith’s career began in the late-1920s and went through various ups-and-downs over the years. While, to a purist’s ear, his tone may not have been the prettiest, his ability to swing mightily is in no doubt. In 1956, he was signed by Norman Granz who, in the space of a few weeks early in 1957, produced the 3 quite different LPs which are brought together in this 2-CD set. The first, “Have Violin, Will Swing”, recorded in two sessions with different rhythm teams, benefitted considerably from the presence of the terrific, but sadly short-lived, Carl Perkins on piano. On the second, called simply “Stuff Smith”, he was supported by the Oscar Peterson Trio (with Barney Kessel on guitar) plus Alvin Stoller on drums. The third teamed him with Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet and a rhythm section including Wynton Kelly (p) and J C Heard (d), and was originally issued under the title “Dizzy Gillespie - Stuff Smith”.


His Hollywood Allstars
His Hollywood Allstars
Price: £15.04

4.0 out of 5 stars A good swinging album, with Georgie leading a strong band, 1 May 2015
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This review is from: His Hollywood Allstars (Audio CD)
Tenorman Georgie Auld (originally John Altwerger) was Canadian (born in Toronto in May 1919) but moved to New York in 1929. While still in his mid-teens, he led his own band for a while. A swing stylist, he was with Bunny Berigan in 1937-38, then with Artie Shaw (temporarily taking over when Artie stood down), with Benny Goodman in 1940-41, and with Artie Shaw again in 1941-2. For much of the rest of the 1940s, and into the early-1950s, he ran his own big bands and small groups (and developed a taste for bebop, for a time employing Dizzy Gillespie and other modernists). He also ran his own club in New York. For health reasons, he moved to California in 1954, and opened another club, in Hollywood. This splendid CD brings together the contents of 2 albums recorded on the West Coast with big bands, and smart arrangements by Billy May. The programmes are mainly good standards, but with some originals by Georgie and Billy May. Georgie is the principal soloist throughout, but there are opportunities too for such as trumpeter Ray Linn and trombonist Frank Rosolino, and Maynard Ferguson lifts the trumpet section.


Count Basie Swings - Joe Williams Sings
Count Basie Swings - Joe Williams Sings
Price: £16.94

5.0 out of 5 stars The start of a great, swinging partnership, 1 May 2015
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Their story began in September 1950. Basie had disbanded and was leading a septet which, in the course of its travels, was playing the Brass Rail night spot in Chicago. A 31-year-old Chicagoan – a door-to-door cosmetics salesman by day who by night sang in another club in the city – sat in with the septet. Two of the numbers in his repertoire at that time were "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "In the Evenin’ (when the Sun Goes Down)". Soon, Basie’s septet continued on their travels. When, 4 years later, Basie had set up his new band and got it working to his satisfaction, he decided that it was time to add a blues singer – someone who would be able to fill the mighty shoes vacated by Jimmy Rushing. He sent for Joe Williams who had sung with the septet in Chicago, and he arrived on Christmas Day, 1954. The band set off shortly afterwards in their Greyhound bus for a southern tour, on their way picking up Basie’s new drummer, Sonny Payne, in Washington. By the summer, Basie was ready to record again and this album was laid down over 2 days in May and July. They included "Every Day" (which also became a major hit in the R&B charts, reaching number 2) and "In the Evenin’"; and Basie persuaded Joe to do "All Right, OK, You Win", which achieved popular success as well.
Together, they were writing a fresh chapter in the Basie saga with perhaps the swinging-est band in the history of jazz.


Dinah Jams
Dinah Jams
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.89

5.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous session, 30 April 2015
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This review is from: Dinah Jams (Audio CD)
This was recorded on a single day in a studio with a small but enthusiastic audience. On hand were the marvellous, recently-formed, Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet (with tenorman Harold Land and Bud Powell's kid brother Richie on piano), trumpeters Clark Terry and Maynard Ferguson, Herb Geller on alto saxophone, Dinah’s own pianist, Junior Mance, and bassist Keeter Betts. There are a number of feature numbers and a ballad medley, but the outstanding tracks are three lengthy jam numbers - "You Go To My Head", "I've Got You Under My Skin" and, above all, the thrilling "Lover Come Back to Me" with solos all round. Great stuff.


Tatum Group Masterpieces Vol.1
Tatum Group Masterpieces Vol.1
Offered by rbmbooks
Price: £19.26

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic session by great jazz masters, 30 April 2015
Art Tatum, born in 1909, overcame the disadvantage of being blind in one eye and having very limited vision in the other to become the pianist held in the greatest awe by his jazz peers - past and present. As Art neared the end of his life, Norman Granz recorded a series of sessions by the great man playing solo (issued in a series of 7 albums under the title “The Solo Masterpieces”). Soon afterwards, Granz began recording a parallel series of 8 small-group sessions ("The Group Masterpieces"). This one, with the master alto saxophonist Benny Carter and drummer Louie Bellson, was the earliest and undoubtedly one of the very finest. It begins with the 8-minute "Blues in C", in which Art throws down the gauntlet with his opening solo passage and Benny, in turn, takes up the challenge with a splendid statement of his own. And so it continues through the programme, mainly of standards. True masters at work. (For other top sessions in the series, try Vol. 7 with the great clarinettist Buddy DeFranco, and Vol 8 with the master tenopr saxophonist Ben Webster.)


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