Somewhat perversely, this compilation presents Joe Bushkin's recordings in almost reverse chronological order. He recorded two 10" LPs for Columbia in the early fifties, and Buck Clayton (trumpet), Eddie Safranski (bass) and Jo Jones (drums) accompanied him on the 1951 "After Hours" (the same personnel as for CD 2, tracks 2 to 10). Bushkin played in a relaxed swinging style, to which his 1951 small group sounds perfectly attuned, probably because they were appearing together at "The Embers" at East 54th Street, New York at the time. The showstopper has to be "Ol' Man River" which is taken apace with Buck soloing throughout. Sid Weiss (bass) and Morey Feld (drums) accompanied Joe Bushkin on the 1950 "Piano Moods" which was a set of four double medleys. He is more to the fore on this earlier album, and the group sounds slightly less integrated.
For me the highlight is the third 10" album, which dates from 1946 and features Brad Gowans & his New York Nine. Brad played what he called the valide trombone, a hybrid slide and valve instrument of his own invention. He recorded very little under his own name, but in April 1946 he fronted a studio group comprising Billy Butterfield on trumpet, Joe Dixon on clarinet, Arthur Rollini on tenor sax, Paul Ricci on bass sax, Joe Bushkin on piano, Tony Colucci on guitar, Jack Lesberg on bass and Dave Tough on drums. Eight numbers were issued on a now very rare RCA Victor LP, which stands as the definitive testament to his arranging skills (he wrote for Bud Freeman's Summe Cum Laude Orchestra) and of which a reissue was long overdue.
Bushkin's three tracks from "The Jazz Keyboards" span the two CDs, date from 1946, and include Barney Kessel on guitar and Harry Babasin on bass. They're followed by a single track with strings, take 2 of which concludes the second CD. In between come eight tracks of radio transcriptions from "The Embers" where Bushkin was the house pianist in the early fifties, three singles recorded with trumpeter Hot Lips Page and bassist Al Morgan in 1941, and five piano solos recorded for Commodore in 1940.
This is a superb reissue which, although centred around a memorable pianist, is likely to be sought out primarily for the wonderful Brad Gowans recordings. Sound quality is everything you could wish for.
As always from this label you get good value. Unlike some reviewers of other issues on this label I have no gripe with the audio quality of the transfers. (Exactly who are these sad nerds anyway, who seem to spend their time listening for the odd missing cymbal stroke or take great delight in pointing out that the recording date on track 6 was 2 days out ? They seem incapable of actually enjoying anything !) I confess it was the featuring of Buck Clayton that swayed me into ordering this one but listeners will generally not be disappointed with this selection of Bushkin's work.