|FOUR REISSUE LABELS
Since I spent much more time this month listening to classic jazz recordings than in seeing live performances, this particular column will be
discussing some very valuable CDs. Next month I will catch up on the live reviews.
When it comes to reissuing American jazz, with a few exceptions (particularly Mosaic), the most worthy reissue series are from Europe. With
the merger of so many labels, vintage jazz often gets left in the archives by American companies. Fortunately the four series covered in this
article have succeeded in filling much of the gap.
Fresh Sound (www.freshsoundrecords.com) from Spain, under the direction of Jordi Pujol, has compiled generous sets of music, usually with
both the original liner notes and updated ones, in attractive packages. There currently have over 500 sets in print, virtually all of them
rewarding to collectors of 1950s jazz.
The Great Ellingtonians (FSR 532) reissues three former Lps on a two-CD set. Harry Carney, who was the baritonist with the Duke Ellington
Orchestra for 48 years, only led two albums in his career. The second one, Rock Me Gently, features him in excellent form in 1960 with a
nonet mostly drawn from Duke’s band. Trombonist Booty Wood, who became a plunger mute specialist in the role of Tricky Sam Nanton, also
rarely led an album. His Hang In There features altoist Johnny Hodges and on some songs three trombones. Paul Gonsalves had more
opportunities to be a leader on records. He teams up with fellow saxophonist Harold Ashby on Tenor Stuff, an album that is unusual because
Gonsalves switches to guitar (his first instrument) on part of three songs.
One of the few survivors from the classic bebop era (he was with the 1949 Charlie Barnet Orchestra), pianist Claude Williamson has had his
first sessions as a leader reissued on The Complete 1954-1955 Kenton Presents Sessions (FSR 400) and 1956’s The Claude Williamson Trio
(FSR 328). The two CDs are equally rewarding with Williamson enthusiastically and creatively displaying his own conception of the Bud
Powell bop style while swinging in his own voice.
While Joanie Sommers has never thought of herself as a jazz singer, the two-CD set Positively The Blues/The Voice Of The Sixties/For Those
Who Think Young (FSR 771) features her swinging on cookers and improvising with subtlety on the ballads. Her voice during these 1959-61
sessions is strong and beautiful and she clearly enjoyed being joined by some of the top West Coast players including Art Pepper, Frank
Rosolino, Jack Sheldon and Bud Shank. The arrangements by Marty Paich, Neal Hefti, Bob Florence and Tommy Oliver fit her youthful jazz
style very well.
The first fulltime jazz cellist, Fred Katz came to fame with the Chico Hamilton Quintet but has spent much of his career since as a composer,
often of classical music. The two-CD set Fred Katz And His Music (FSR 744) reissues his 1958-59 albums Soul Cello, 4-5-6 Trio and Fred Katz
And His Jammers. Ranging from light swingers to atmospheric mood pieces, Katz is heard on these formerly rare performances in a variety
of different small groups with such notables as flutist Paul Horn, altoist Buddy Collette, guitarists John Pisano and Billy Bean, and
trumpeters Don Fagerquist and Pete Candoli.
Sounds Of Yester Year, a subsidiary of Great Britain’s Submarine label (available from www.cityhallrecords.com), has released many 1940s
and ’50s radio broadcasts, and V-Disc collections. A.F.R.S. King Cole Trio Time Live Volume One 1947 (DSOY 879) and Volume Two 1947-48
(DSOY 882) each contain all of the music from five of the 15-minute radio shows that were hosted by Nat King Cole during the era. At the
time, Cole was on the verge of great stardom, balancing his smooth vocals with his superb swing piano solos. The earlier set has Cole and his
trio (with guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Johnny Miller) welcoming such guests (usually for one number apiece) as pianist Earl Hines, Cab
Calloway, Johnny Mercer, Woody Herman, the Dinning Sisters and Stan Kenton. Volume Two, which has Irving Ashby succeeding Moore on
guitar, has appearances by Mel Torme and singer Clark Dennis with three of the five shows focusing exclusively on the trio. While the
performances tend to be brief (sometimes under two minutes), the music is quite enjoyable and a worthy addition to the discography of the
great Nat King Cole.
Fans of Woody Herman’s First Herd, which was arguably his most exciting band, are fortunate in that many radio broadcasts exist of this
classic orchestra. Active during 1944-46, the Herd is featured on One-Two-Three-Four Jump (DSOY 894) which has broadcasts from Nov.
10, 1944 and July 2, 1945. While some numbers are vocal features for Herman and Francis Wayne, there are also hot versions of the title
cut, “Helen Of Troy,” “Apple Honey,” “Goosey Gander” and “Northwest Passage” that feature such notables as trombonist Bill Harris, tenor-
saxophonist Flip Phillips and (on the second broadcast) trumpeter Sonny Berman.
Trombonist Will Bradley gained fame in the early 1940s for his big band boogie-woogie numbers even though he much preferred playing
warm ballads. By the late 1950s when Will Bradley And His Jazz Octet (DSOY 885) was recorded, he was a studio musician. These 27 brief
and rare selections are among Bradley’s last as a leader. With trumpeter Billy Butterfield and clarinetist Paul Ricci in the personnel, the
music ranges from Dixieland to danceable ballads with enough hot numbers to interest swing collectors.
The Acrobat label (available from musicvideodistributors.com) from England has released several very interesting compilations of live and
studio recordings. The three-CD Glenn Miller Live At The Glen Island Casino 1939 (ACTRCD 9032) will greatly interest Glenn Miller fans.
Included are 14 complete broadcasts, dating from May 17-Aug. 10, 1939, the period of time when Miller was just beginning to make it big
after two years in obscurity. These broadcasts (there were around 130 in the 13-weeks that the band was based at the Glen Island Casino)
greatly helped in popularizing the band, as did their recordings of “Little Brown Jug” and “In The Mood.” While there are some novelties from
singer Marian Hutton and ballad vocals by Ray Eberle, many of the performances are jazz-oriented and some were not otherwise recorded by
Kay Starr, who was 16 at the time, subbed for an ill Hutton on one of Miller’s broadcasts and a recording date. The four-CD The Kay Starr
Collection 1939-62 (ACQCD 7058) starts with the Miller records and then features the highpoints of Starr’s prime years. By the mid-1940s,
she was a superior jazz, blues and ballad singer who became a hit maker with “The Wheel Of Fortune” and “The Rock And Roll Waltz” in the
1950s. Always versatile, she ranged from sounding like Dinah Washington to singing country duets with Tennessee Ernie Ford, and was
comfortable with both large orchestras and hot jazz combos. 114 of her finest recordings are on this definitive set. The lack of a
comprehensive personnel listing is unfortunate but the liner notes are excellent and the music is often timeless.
One of the top cornet players of the 1920s, Red Nichols enjoyed a comeback during the second half of the 1940s, and surprising late-career
rejuvenation when his life story was made into the 1959 Danny Kaye movie The Five Pennies. The two-CD set Live At Club Hangover
(ADDCD 3090) features Nichols and his Five Pennies on four radio broadcasts from San Francisco’s Club Hangover in 1953. Nichols’ group
includes the masterful bass saxophonist Joe Rushton, solid musicians and inventive arrangements that result in the music being advanced
Dixieland. There are also a few selections from boogie-woogie and swing pianist Meade Lux Lewis who was the group’s intermission pianist
during this stint.
Jazz From London 1957 (ACMCD 4368) offers a valuable snapshot of London’s modern jazz scene of the time. The previously unreleased
concert has some of England’s top musicians playing bebop including Tubby Hayes on tenor and vibes, trumpeters Bert Courtley and Hank
Shaw, bass trumpeter Ken Wray, clarinetist Vic Ash, tenor-saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore and pianist Dill Jones (featured on “Viper’s Drag”).
The jam session-flavored music (which includes “Blue ‘N’ Boogie,” “Salute To the Bandbox,” and “A Night In Tunisia”) contains plenty of
fireworks and should delight bop fans
The Avid label (www.avidgroup.co.uk) from England has an extensive series of two CD sets, each of which reissue in full all of the music
formerly on three-five Lps plus other bonus material. Three or four of these valuable sets are released each month.
Masters Of Boogie Piano (AMSC 1094), which dates from 1939-55, contains music from each of the top five boogie-woogie pianists. Two Meade
Lux Lewis albums (Yancey’s Last Ride and Cat House Piano) fill out most of the first disc while Albert Ammons’ Boogie Woogie Piano (which
features Ammons in several settings including three songs with his son Gene Ammons on tenor), a duo piano set with Pete Johnson & Albert
Ammons (8 To The Bar), Jimmy Yancey’s A Lost Recording Date, and four selections from Johnson’s Roll ‘Em Boy, Let ‘Em Jump For Joy
comprise the second disc. There is a great deal of rollicking music on this joyful twofer.
Although he was not as well-known as some of his contemporaries, Charlie Shavers was one of the greatest trumpeters of all time. His sound
was distinctive, he showed a lot of wit, he could hit screaming high notes with ease, and his style fell between swing and bop. Charlie
Shavers/Maxine Sullivan (AMSC 1085) from 1954-59 features Shavers with vocalist Sullivan on A Tribute To Andy Razaf and Flow Gently
Sweet Rhythm; a few songs reunite the survivors of the John Kirby Sextet in the mid-1950s. In addition, Shavers is showcased on Horn O’
Plenty, joined by a string section on The Most Intimate, and is in explosive form with tenor-saxophonist Hal Singer on Blue Stompin’.
One of the top “cool jazz” singers to emerge in the 1950s, Chris Connor on Four Classic Albums Plus (AMCD 1089) is heard on some of her
earliest recordings as a leader. Her albums Lullabys Of Birdland, Chris, This Is Chris and Chris Connor are reissued in full as is the first half of
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. This is the perfect way to acquire a strong sampling of the haunting and quietly expressive singer.
Happily, drummer Roy Haynes is still very much with us. Until the 1980s, he only led albums on an occasional basis but most were gems.
Three Classic Albums Plus (AMSC 1092) features Haynes on trio dates with pianists Phineas Newborn (We Three) and Richard Wyands (Just
Us) along with a quartet outing with the amazing Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Out Of The Afternoon). In addition, four rare selections from his half
of a 1954 album Jazz Abroad helps make this reissue a collector’s item.