Joe Newman is best-remembered for having played in the Basie band during the forties and fifties, and this 2-CD set features him towards the end of that period, leading studio groups which included sidesmen from the Count's band.
It brings together the contents of four albums, the first of which (Locking Horns) dates from April 1957 and originated as half of a 2-LP set from Roulette entitled "Echoes of an Era". Here, Joe is paired with Zoot Sims (his partner for the second LP was John Coltrane). It's a relaxed outing, which jogs along without really catching light. If the title is intended to imply a battle, then it's shadow boxing rather than fisticuffs. That's followed by "All I Wanna Do Is Swing", which predates it by two years, and features Joe as leader of a larger group, which comprised Al Cohn & Ernie Wilkins on alto, Frank Rehack on trombone, Nat Pierce piano, Freddie Green guitar, Milt Hinton bass and Shadow Wilson drums. This is a much more robust affair, which bounces in the Basie style.
"The Midgets" was recorded in July 1956 by the Joe Newman Septet, namely Frank Wess on flute, Barry Galbraith on electric guitar, Freddie Green on rhythm guitar, Hank Jones on piano (and organ on the second number), Eddie Jones bass, and Osie Johnson drums. Finally "Soft Swingin' Jazz" dates from January 1958, and is played by a quartet, featuring Shirley Scott on organ, Eddie Jones on bass and Charlie Persip on drums. Newman plays mostly muted trumpet, and sings on three tracks in a style that's strongly reminiscent of Louis Armstrong. Both of the albums on the second CD were arranged by Ernie Wilkins, who also played piano on the penultimate track.
Newman was one of the leading swing trumpeters, whose approach reflected his New Orleans roots, and this compilation gives the chance to hear him in four different settings, in all of which he sounds equally at home. I've awarded five stars, but prefer the first CD to the second, because although Frank Wess' flute playing added colour in a big band setting, it seems obtrusive in the smaller group, and that impression is reinforced by repeated listening. Remastering is excellent, as is the presentation, complete with the original sleeve notes.
on 31 July 2012
I strongly recommend this item. I had not thought of Joe Newman as a solo performer before but he really shines here. If you like swinging jazz with a recognisable melody and inventive improvised solos, you won't go wrong here. Basie training shows througout but particularly on "The Midgets" (1956) where Joe (muted) is joined by Frank Wess on flute an Barry Galbraith's electric guitar to delightful effect. "Soft Swingin' Jazz" (1958) features Shirley Scott on organ - superior to Basie's organ efforts for my money. "Locking Horns" (1957) has Zoot Sims on tenor while "All I Wanna Do Is Swing" (1955) boasts a front line of Newman, Al Cohn (tenor),Ernie Wilkins (alto)and Frank Rehack (trombone) backed by a rhythm section of Nat Pierce, Freddie Green, Milt Hinton and Shadow Wilson. There's plenty of variety without forgetting "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing".
on 29 April 2015
Trumpeter Joe Newman, a native of New Orleans, was discovered by Lionel Hampton, who signed him in 1941, when Joe was 19. But he is best remembered for his work with Count Basie with whom he had 2 stints - in 1943-46 and, more significantly, as a key member of the "New Testament" band in 1952-61. The 4 LPs collected together in this 2-CD set were recorded during the latter period. None of them is very well-known, but every one of them is full of super jazz, and they all swing like mad. On the earliest of them, "All I Wanna Do is Swing" (a fair summation of his career - indeed, the album is sub-titled "The Joe Newman Story"), he leads an octet with Frank Rehak (tb), Ernie Wilkins (as) and Al Cohn (ts) sharing the front line and a superlative rhythm section of Nat Pierce (p), Freddie Green (g), Milt Hinton (b) and Shadow Wilson (d). The next in chronological order bears the title of Joe's most famous composition, "The Midgets". Frank Wess, who played flute alongside Joe on the original Basie recording of the title number, is with Joe again here plus Barry Galbraith; and Freddie Green is also here once more, plus Hank Jones (p, org), Eddie Jones (b) and Osie Johnson (d). The third album, "Locking Horns", teams Joe with another great swinger, tenorman Zoot Sims, and a rhythm section of Johnny Acea (p), Oscar Pettiford (b) and Osie Johnson And, finally, Joe's quartet on the aptly-titled "Soft Swingin' Jazz" has the swinging Miss Shirley Scott on organ, Eddie Jones (b) and Charlie Persip (d), and Joe throws in a few vocals for good measure.