The exciting news about this selection from Hermes is that the transfers use vinyl pressings, not commercial 78s. This means clarity for these 1928-30 sides.
The selection begins with seven sides by Earl Hines’s orchestra. Hear how Hines elbows vocalist (and trombonist) William Franklin out of the way in Sweet Ella May when his solo comes around – not surprisingly considering the cod-ballad vocalising of the dire Franklin. Hines, like Ellington, seems to have had a high sufferance level for appalling band vocalists. At this stage the band was still a bit lumbering with even so fine a brass bass player as Hayes Alvin unable to move things along. Hines’s solo on Everybody Loves My Baby is a feast for cognoscenti as is his scat singing. A Monday Date is naturally here but you can also hear how well worked out the ensemble playing is, especially the two trumpet section work on Beau Koo Jack – Shirley Clay and George Mitchell, the latter from Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers.
Tiny Parham’s band essays Jungle Crawl which sounds Ellingtonian, rather like The Mooche in fact. Cornet man Roy Hobson’s quavering hesitant playing contrasts with the more confident trombone playing of Charles Lawson. Elliott Washington takes a good violin part. Later recordings by the band see Punch Miller in the trumpet chair and he preaches bluesily on Black Cat Moan. The arrangement is interesting and the sonorities – percussion, soprano saxophone – add variety.
The Missourians were a good, hard-hitting band. Ozark Mountain Blues is a Tiger Rag workout. Their trumpeter R.Q. Dickerson emulates Armstrong throughout but especially on Market Street Stomp with its wailing clarinet choir. Charlie Johnson’s great Harlem bands were all star affairs – Benny Carter, Jabbo Smith, Benny Waters, Jimmy Harrison, Sidney de Paris and others – and they also featured the not-at-all-bad vocals of Monette Moore. Try the arrangement of The Boy in the Boat for glamorous flair and excitement. The Jungle Town Stompers and Musical Stevedores were more sedate though they had great players on board such as Charlie Holmes, Freddy Jenkins, Louis Metcalf, Luis Russell and the banjoist Elmer Snowden. Even in this fast company don’t overlook the splendid clarinet solo in African Jungle or Metcalf’s blues playing.
The fold-open booklet has full matrix, recording date and issue information as well as full personnels. A word too in favour of Norman Field’s excellent notes. Really good stuff all round.
Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb-international.com