Having enthused about the earlier reissue of four albums by the Dave Pell Octet (Avid AMSC 1076), I began auditioning this new one with high hopes, and I was not disappointed. The Octet was drawn initially from the ranks of the Les Brown band, of which Pell was a member from 1947 to 1955, so it's hardly surprising that it achieved a high degree of cohesion.
The first CD features two early recordings by the Dave Pell Octet, both of which were released originally on the Kapp label. Apart from the leader's tenor sax, the Octet included Don Fagerquist on trumpet, Ray Sims on trombone, Rolly Bundock on bass, and Tony Rizzo on guitar. They were joined by Ronny Lang on flute, Donn Trenner on piano, and Bill Richmond on drums for the Rodgers & Hart album, which was recorded in 1953. The Irving Berlin album was recorded the following year, with the first five musicians joined by Ronnie Lang on alto & baritone sax, Geoff Clarkson on piano, and Jack Sperling on drums. The various arrangers concerned were Wes Hensel, Bill Holman, Jerry Fielding, Johnny Mandel, Marty Paich and Shorty Rogers. The result is a delight; two dozen treasures from the Great American Song Book in sparkling performances. For my money, the Rodgers & Hart compositions benefit more from the cool jazz approach, particularly "You Are Too Beautiful" which sounds ravishing, as it should.
Not surprisingly, the line-up of the Octet had changed completely by 1961, when "The Old South Wails" was recorded for Capitol. Jack Sheldon was on trumpet, Harry Betts on trombone, Med Flory on baritone sax, Marty Paich & Johnny Williams alternating on piano, Lyle Ritz on bass, Tommy Tedesco on guitar and Frankie Capp on drums. Eleven numbers from the Dixieland repertoire plus "Manhattan" were transformed by some of Hollywood's best arrangers, and the result was tight, swinging, compact performances which sound as fresh today as the day they were recorded. That same year Pell (doubling on clarinet) headed a sextet with Benny Carter on alto sax, Ray Linn on trumpet, and retaining Ritz, Williams and Capp, to record "I Remember John Kirby" for Capitol. Just as an aside, the third track should show Anitra's Dance from the Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg, which was the first of several classical adaptations recorded by the John Kirby band. It's a fitting tribute to what used to be called "The Biggest Little Band in the Land", and rounds off an exemplary reissue.
Great swing music with splendid arrangements. Ideal for driving. As usual liner notes have inconsistencies and errors (eg Anitra,s dance becomes Anitas Dance and the composer is listed as "unknown" .. stand up Grieg and take a bow!). But at the price it is excellent value
Very smooth, "kind" swinging small band jazz with good soloing on all hands. Typically for AVID JAZZ is that all this music have been reissued on CD in the past on other more serious labels prepared to lay down a lot of work with the content. Very seldom AVID JAZZ (at least the Four/Three Classic-sets)is coming up with material of their "own". These Dave Pells have been dubbed without filtering or adding that typically CD jarring sounds which earlier appeared on this label(for example "Dixieland Jazz-The Real Thing"). Don Fagerquist andJack Sheldon play a lot of fine trumpet as always, arrangements in top class by Marty Paich, Bill Holman etc. The salute to John Kirby(Benny Carter altosax) doesn not sound like the original but I think that is not bad at all in this case. Another very interesting comparisation is that 10 of the 12 tracks from "The Old South Wails" has exactly the same tunes as an old Dixieland LP(1957) on TOPS-label(CD on Pickwick, deleted) with Matty Matlock as the formal leader. If you like easy swinging, danceable jazz and wonderful melodies this double-set is a bargain. Leif Hallin
This is a terrific double CD set. I'm a fairly recent convert to jazz and bought this as a result of hearing one Pell track on the radio and then a presentation about his music at a local group I belong to. I heard his band referred to on the radio as "a bit commercialised but what wrong with that?" I think that was underselling it. Certainly the performances are polished but the arrangements, often of familiar tunes, are great and the music has wonderful variety and drive. The musicianship is top notch and there isn't a weak track on either CD. The packaging is excellent and includes the original LP notes, mostly with the text large enough to be legible which isn't always the case. I bought the set direct from Avid via the Amazon marketplace and the delivery was very prompt. I have mostly been listening to the recognised jazz greats, and while Pell isn't one of them (he isn't even mentioned in a book I have called 'Jazz: the Complete Story") I think he's unjustly neglected, probably because the style is seen as what one of the notes calls "soft swing". That makes it sound lukewarm - it isn't at all.