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NEARLY RECORD OF THE YEAR..BUT..
on 25 February 2014
Anybody who started their record buying career in Britain in the days of EPs and 10" LPs will have a soft spot for labels like Esquire, Melodisc...and Vogue, who served us jazz fans far better than the big four.
Perhaps it is the warm glow of nostalgia, or increasing tolerance with age, that it doesn't seem so incongruous to see Sidney Bechet rubbing shoulders with Monk and Lionel Hampton and Mezz Mezzrow with Bobby Jaspar in the same sturdy 20CD box. Jimmy Raney, Milt Jackson, Roy Eldridge and Bob Brookmeyer are among my favourite musicians, who , despite their different styles, lived and breathed jazz.
I have very few reservations: the main one may seem paltry. The Gerry Mulligan Quartet (with Bob Brookmeyer) disc runs for only 37 minutes 40 seconds. The following volume, Theolonious Monk, solo, both from 1954, runs for 31 minutes 35 seconds. Both these sessions could have fitted on to one disc. There were other tracks recorded by Mulligan in Paris in the opening days of June 1954 at that same concert, but to be fair, the entire session has been reissued many times of many labels and is easily obtainable.
I would have liked to see these sessions coupled on one CD to have had the "extra" CD taken up with the sessions Frank Rosolino and Zoot Zims recorded in Paris while on tour with the great Stan Kenton Orchestra in September 1953 and there was a great quartet session by Frank Foster which could also have been accomodated (both appeared on the British "Vogue double" series of LPs in a compilation called "Four 4 Sax" in 1978).
Also, couldn't room have been found for at least one of the two takes of the magnificent "Brown Skins" - a variation on "Cherokee" recorded (in the utmost secrecy) by a large band led by Clifford Brown, when he was playing truant from the Lionel Hampton Band in 1953, and Clifford had to be smuggled out of his hotel room because Hamp's dictatorial wife Gladys had forbidden any of the band making recordings while touring.
These records sum up a time and a place and the thought of Brownie and his trumpet sneaking down the fire escape of his Paris hotel is perhaps the most romantic of the lot, and Brown Skins will always reman one of the supreme masterpiece of the catalogue.
These carping critisisms aside, the set is worth every penny: most of the CDs have the familiar dark red, white and black Vogue labels we knew so well, a few have the toffee brown "Swing" label. Each CD is contained in an extremely strong cardboard cover, rather like the Japanese Blue Note and Prestige issues from King. All sleeve notes are in French. The booklet could perhaps have painted a rather better picture of some of the sessions, butt they are factual if brief.
The only thing that saddens me is that these projects are always one-offs, and though there wouldn't be enough material for another 20 volume set, so much is missing, that a smaller box could (but probably won't) be commissioned. How about "The Herdsmen Visit Paris", or Jay Cameron's International Sax Group (January 1st 1955), as well as the Foster and Rosolino/Sims sessions and.how about Kenny Clarke with Jimmy Deuchar.... but what's done is done. Let's be grateful for what there is: I have heard the Henri Renaud sessions from March 7 1954 many times, but until this weekend I had never heard the track where Milt Jackson sings and plays piano on Harry Warren's "The More I See You", and there are a few other tracks I have never heard.
This set will sit next to that wonderful collection of "The Complete Saturne Picture Discs" (Paris Jazz Corner Productions PJC 222008), - recorded in 1951 and issued over a decade ago which featured Henri Renaud (with highly evocative sleeve notes by M. Renaud ) leading a band including Sandy Mosse, Bobby Jaspar and Jimmy Gourley. Jimmy Gourley (1926-2008) was a fine guitarist in the Raney mould who enlivened many a session including the cerebral Lee Konitz one included in this Vogue box, and some of the Clifford Brown/Gigi Gryce tracks here. He was a great favourite of mine and deserved to be better known. Towards the end of his life he had his own label "Elabeth" and it's few issues are worth hunting down.One even included Stan Getz guesting (masquerading as "Dju Berry")- thats how good he was, Stan wouldnt have wasted time with just anybody in the 1980s.
My advice is to buy this set if you have any interest at all in jazz from the late 40s to the mid-fifties before it gets deleted and will cost a months wages to buy secondhand