Customer Review

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BACK TO BUCK, 9 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Three Classic Albums Plus (Songs For Swingers / Buck Meets Ruby / Harry Edison Swings Buck Clayton) (Audio CD)
This 2-CD set features a 1954 Vanguard ten-incher "Buck Meets Ruby" (Braff), the first sides from two LPs, namely the 1956 Buck Clayton All-Stars at Newport and the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival All Stars, and two 1958 albums, Harry Edison Swings Buck Clayton & Vice Versa, and Songs for Swingers. This is a bit of a dog's breakfast, for reasons I'll come on to, but including the fact that it's rounded off with two half-albums rather than a fourth complete one.

Taking the albums in the order in which they occur, Songs for Swingers comprises four of Buck's compositions and four standards. The rhythm section is flawless, Emmett Berry shares trumpet duties with Buck, and Dickie Wells and Earl Warren complete the front line. There's plenty of good tight ensemble playing, but everyone gets an individual bite of the cherry. I particularly like the energetic treatment of "Sunday", a number first popularised by Paul Whiteman.

At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival Buck teamed up with Coleman Hawkins and J. J. Johnson, and the three numbers from the album sound somewhat more impromptu, but the excitement of the live performance was well captured for posterity. The title in the tracklist refers erroneously to Duke Ellington, because the pianist is Dick Katz. The first CD closes with an extended rendition of "I Can't Get Started" from the Braff album, the remaining three tracks of which kick off the second CD. As mentioned in the liner note, the balance could have been better, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the playing.

Buck and Sweets Edison, his fellow trumpeter in the pre-war Basie band, teamed up in 1958, with a band that included Jimmy Forrest on tenor and Freddie Green on guitar (the latter mentioned in the original sleeve note but not credited in the line-up). It seems to me that this album should be down to Harry Edison rather than Buck Clayton, not just because he gets first billing, but also by virtue of the fact that he composed all four numbers on the first side. The second comprises a medley of four standards, on which the individual musicians seize the opportunity of extended solos. The four tracks from the 1959 Newport All Stars (recorded in Boston) suffer from occasional slight distortion. The Kansas City school was represented by Buck and Vic Dickenson, and Chicago in the persons of Pee Wee Russell and Bud Freeman.

These recordings by Buck Clayton's All-Star Groups show that jazz was very much alive in the fifties, defying rumours of its imminent demise. Despite its somewhat haphazard assembly, this compilation is eminently listenable, and will help meet the continuing demand for such music.
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