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Barry McCanna (Normandy, France)
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Stardust-The Big Band Bible by Richard Grudens (2008) Perfect Paperback
Stardust-The Big Band Bible by Richard Grudens (2008) Perfect Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT AS GOOD AS IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE, 29 Aug. 2015
This was bought for me on the strength of eight 5-star reviews (one on Amazon.uk), and although I've just begun reading it I have serious reservations already about its claim to be "the Bible of the Big Bands". Its best feature is probably the photographs, which serve to illustrate a miscellany of profiles, features, charts, lists and anecdotes. There is no discernible system of presentation, and that is compounded by the lack of an index.

To turn from the general to the particular, the author manages from the outset (page 22) to complicate an already extremely confusing history. First Art Hickman is cited as beginning the big band era around 1930, then Benny Goodman is credited with officially launching the Big Band or Swing Era in 1935. Continuing, he writes "The Big Band era developed from thereon (sic) as one band after another was spawned in a process when individual band members spun off successive bands by forming their own musical organisations." Amongst various examples of such spinoffs he claims Louis Armstrong off Fletcher Henderson, but Louis left Henderson in 1925! Given that anachronism one is entitled to question the amount of research that is claimed for this work.

Such a publication needs to demonstrate a sure grasp of the subject, combined with in-depth analysis where appropriate. As an example of the latter, the author turns his attention on page 26 to the history of "Star Dust" (or "Stardust" as it's shown in the heading). Now there is much that could be written about this extraordinary composition, particularly why it is such an unusual tune, but Grudens is silent on that score. Instead he dwells briefly on its origins, lists some of those who've recorded it, and concludes "It is more than conjecture that "Stardust" (sic) is considered the finest love song ever written. The verse matches the melodic verse beautifully." Which tells you absolutely nothing.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2015 8:47 PM BST


Live from Buenos Aires
Live from Buenos Aires
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: £11.88

5.0 out of 5 stars SOUTH AMERICA, TAKE IT AWAY, 18 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Live from Buenos Aires (Audio CD)
“Live from Buenos Aires” (Rivermont BSW-2233) was recorded at a concert in that city given by pianists Brian Holland and Bryan Wright, ably assisted by Danny Coots on drums. The emphasis was on ragtime, but “St Louis Blues Boogie” (after Earl Hines) and “Carmen Boogie” (after Bizet), Fat’s Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”, and Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” are also featured, as well as a twenties pop song with vocal by Bryan’s wife Yuko. It’s a very varied and highly enjoyable package, and it’s accompanied by a 24-page booklet giving the background to the tunes, and more. Highly recommended to lovers of jazz piano in particular, and lovers of good music in general.


Four Classic Albums (The Herd Rides Again In Stereo / The Fourth Herd / Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet / At The Monterey Jazz Festival)
Four Classic Albums (The Herd Rides Again In Stereo / The Fourth Herd / Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet / At The Monterey Jazz Festival)
Price: £7.69

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HERD AGAIN, 17 Aug. 2015
Avid’s 2-CD set of Woody Herman (AMSC 1166) offers four classic stereo albums, three being his big bands from the late fifties. “The Herd Rides Again” dates from July/August 1958, when a nucleus of his First Herd was joined by later Hermanites, and rekindled some of Woody’s earlier hits. Nat Hentoff’s original sleeve note provides an authoritative guide to the proceedings. “The Fourth Herd” was recorded exactly a year later, and featured a core of Herman alumni augmented by an all-star studio group, plus two tracks by his octet. The second CD begins with Swing Low, Sweet Clarinet”, which is a showcase for Woody with piano, bass and drum accompaniment, and is my favourite of the four. It concludes with a live recording of six numbers from the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival. He once said to Benny Goodman “Well, Benny, you always knew how to play the clarinet, and I always knew how to organise a band”. This generous compilation shows that he was no slouch at either.


The Great Song Thesaurus
The Great Song Thesaurus
by Roger Lax
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A MUSICAL WHO-DUN-IT, 15 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I frequently have need to check on the origins of a song, and this is the best resource I've yet come across.


The Frog Blues & Jazz Annual No.4 (The Musicians, the Records & the Music of the 78 era. [Book+CD]
The Frog Blues & Jazz Annual No.4 (The Musicians, the Records & the Music of the 78 era. [Book+CD]

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A TREASURE FOR THE COLLECTOR, 5 Aug. 2015
Previous editions of this annual have become a “must have” amongst serious collectors, and the latest edition, an A4 cardback book of over 180 pages, printed on high-quality gloss paper, looks set to join them. Just to mention a few highlights; it kicks off with Nick Dellow’s engrossing account of the pistol fight between Sidney Bechet and Mike McKendrick in Montmartre in late 1928; K.B. Rau explores the career and recordings of trumpeter June Clark; editor Paul Swinton follows the trail of Blind Willie McTell, and also details the activities of the Great Washboard Players; Bruce Bastin explores the Atlanta Blues Scene; Alex van der Tuuk explains Son House’s evolution into a blues icon; and Daniel Vernehettes tells the story of trumpeter Bob Schoffner’s career. It’s illustrated throughout with rare photographs, song sheet covers, record labels, advertisements and cuttings from periodicals of the time, many in colour. It’s no exaggeration to call it a treasure trove, and as before it’s accompanied by a 27-track CD, the content of which complements the articles, as follows:

1. Alabama Washboard Stompers Pig Meat Stomp
2. Meade Lux Lewis Unknown Blues
3. Meade Lux Lewis Unknown Blues
4. Piron’s New Orleans Orchestra Bouncing Around
5. JellyRoll Morton & his Red Hot Peppers Little Laurence #2
6. Russell’s Hot Six 29th & Dearborn
7. Blind Blake Seaboard Stomp
8. Blind Willie McTell Love Making Mama #2
9. Bessie Smith Frosty Mornin’ Blues
10. Bessie Smith St Louis Gal #1
11. Tarter and Gay Unknown Blues
12. Curley Weaver No No Blues
13. Gus Cannon Feather Bed
14. King Oliver & his Dixie Syncoptors Deep Henderson
15. Louise Vant Do Right Blues
16. Fats Waller It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie
17. Fats Waller Until the Real Thing Comes Along
18. Fats Waller Crazy ‘Bout My Baby
19. Clara Smith Done Sold My Soul to the Devil
20. Son House Shetland Pony Blues
21. Willie Brown Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor
22. Mae Glover I Ain’t Givin’ Nobody None
23. Dixie Washboard Band Gimme Blues
24. Bob & Roy The Trombone Slide
25. New Orleans Feetwarmers Maple Leaf Rag
26. Washboard Serenaders Tappin’ the Time Away
27. Tampa Red The Duck Yas Yas #B


Drop Me Off In Harlem: A Vintage Jazz Portrait - 25 Classic Tracks
Drop Me Off In Harlem: A Vintage Jazz Portrait - 25 Classic Tracks
Price: £8.73

5.0 out of 5 stars A POTPOURRI OF DELIGHTS, 28 July 2015
I missed Drop Me Off in Harlem (Retrospective RTR 4247) when it came out last year, and am delighted to have repaired that omission now. The compilation is based on that New York suburb, the name of which occurs in every title, and includes the bands of Duke Ellington, Chick Webb, Fletcher Henderson, the Dorsey Brothers, Fats Waller and Jimmie Lunceford. A rich vocal seam has been mined also, producing amongst others Adelaide Hall, Mildred Bailey, Elisabeth Welch and Ella Fitzgerald, not forgetting two duets by Jack Teagarden and Johnny Mercer. My favourite tracks in this potpourri of delights are “Harlem Twist” by Red Nichols, notable for Miff Mole’s syncopated solos, and “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Harlem” by Glenn Miller.


Edison Inventions - A Centenary Tribute, His 33 Finest
Edison Inventions - A Centenary Tribute, His 33 Finest
Price: £12.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BAG OF SWEETS, 28 July 2015
Harry “Sweets” Edison: Edison Inventions 1938-1962 (Retrospective RTS 4271) is a centenary tribute to the trumpeter who is most associated with Count Basie’s band, having spent his formative years there, from 1938 until its dissolution in 1950. It was the ideal apprenticeship, which saw him mature into an immaculate player, with a relaxed approach to solos. His trademarks were a tendency to stay around the middle register and his use of the Harmon (wa-wa) mute, which contributed to his highly distinctive style. During the sixties he led his own groups for a spell, and had a fruitful association with Buddy Rich, then moved to the West Coast. There he made a handsome living in the studios, and his presence was a sine qua non for Frank Sinatra’s tours and records. All these facets of his career, and more, are reflected in this generous 33-track compilation, appreciation of which is enhanced by Digby Fairweather’s informative liner note.


Memphis Rounders Blues
Memphis Rounders Blues
Price: £20.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BLUES COLLECTOR'S DREAM COME TRUE, 27 July 2015
This review is from: Memphis Rounders Blues (Audio CD)
In terms of rarity of source material, you’d be hard pushed to find a compilation to compete with “Memphis Rounders Blues” (Frog DGF80), which features eight blues singers recorded in Memphis between 1928 and 1929. The compilation includes such legendary artists as Jim Jackson, Tommy Johnson, Will Shade, Hattie Hart and Minnie Wallace. Fourteen of the recordings were released commercially, eight of which were alternate takes, and the remaining nine existed only as test pressings. Great care was taken to use the best conditioned copies known to exist, and the clarity of restoration achieved by Nick Dellow has to be heard to be believed. The end result is a blues collector’s dream come true.


Senegalese Stomp
Senegalese Stomp
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £16.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXUBERANT RECORDINGS WITH VIVACIOUS VOCALS, 27 July 2015
This review is from: Senegalese Stomp (Audio CD)
By the time these recordings were made Clarence Williams had become Okeh’s principal A&R man for jazz recordings, aimed specifically at the race market. He was a shrewd businessman, with a talent for arranging studio sessions, both musically (his groups often sound larger than they were) and in terms of assembling the best talent available. During the two years covered by this compilation that included variously Louis Armstrong, Buster Bailey, Don Redman, Coleman Hawkins, Bubber Miley, Otto Hardwick, Thomas Morris, Eddie South and Tommy Ladnier. Most of his Okeh recordings transmit a sense of exuberance, and these are no exception, helped in most cases by the vivacious vocals of his wife Eva Taylor. She was not an outstanding singer, but her diction was clear and her delivery carried traces of the blues shouter style. This is the seventh Frog issue devoted entirely to Clarence Williams, and to say that the recordings are rare would be an under-statement. Nevertheless, Paul Swinton has gone back to the original 78s, which have been lovingly restored by Nick Dellow, and the result is a triumph. This is one of those CDs that rapidly will become a collector’s item, and you should acquire a copy while it remains available.


Runnin' Wild: The Early Years
Runnin' Wild: The Early Years
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £18.52

5.0 out of 5 stars EVERYBODY'S HAPPY, 22 July 2015
This Rivermont CD "Runnin' Wild: The Early Years (1919-1926)" is set in the period 1919 to 1926; it opens with Ted Lewis’ first issued recording, and includes no fewer than six unissued tests. Ted’s vaudevillian style, both playing and singing, is apparent from the outset, and takes some getting used to if you’re not familiar with it. The earliest tracks seem constrained by a rigid 4/4 rhythm, but things began to loosen up as the band developed its own highly idiosyncratic style, and include a higher percentage of jazz-oriented numbers in its repertoire.. It’s apparent from the inclusion of trumpeter Dave Klein and trombonist George Brunies, the latter from the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, that Lewis’ predilection for jazz began earlier than is often attributed. Several well-known numbers are played more slowly than we’re used to hearing them, and the growls in “Tiger Rag” are supplied not by trombone but sousaphone. Given the age and rarity of the original recordings, and also that all but the last was made using the acoustic process, Nick Dellow has performed a remarkable feat of restoration. This is a fascinating survey of the formative years of the band, enjoyment of which is enhanced by the accompanying 44-page illustrated booklet by Mark Berresford, an authority on the life and work of this important bandleader.


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