John Kirby & His Onyx club Boys: The Biggest Little Band In The Land - His 28 Finest 1937-1945
Here is the best single CD selection available of John Kirby’s famous 6-piece group, creating one of the most popular and distinctive jazz styles of the early 40s.
John Kirby (1908-1952) is the first double-bass player to head a Retrospective album. He was indeed the most accomplished bassist on the jazz scene of the late 30s and early 40s, with a light, subtle sound and a superior technique to his contemporaries. But his biggest claim to fame was as the leader of the Onyx Club Boys, a sextet which deservedly won the accolade: “The Biggest Little Band In The Land”. This remarkable ‘orchestra’ boasted a starry front line of Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet and Russell Procope on alto saxophone, and a rhythm section of Kirby, Billy Kyle on piano and O’Neil Spencer on drums. They developed a brand of neatly swinging ‘chamber’ jazz that enjoyed tremendous popularity. The superlative ensemble playing was contained within polished, tight arrangements and driven by a flexible yet powerful rhythm.
The Biggest Little Band In The Land gives a superb 28-track demonstration of their abilities: a happy blend of standards (e.g. Sweet Georgia Brown, Blue Skies, It’s Only A Paper Moon, St. Louis Blues), originals (e.g. Undecided – their biggest hit, Pastel Blue, Jumpin’ In The Pump Room) and breezy adaptations of classics (e.g. Anitra’s Dance, Lucia Sextette, Beethoven Riffs On). Also, an exuberant Jeepers Creepers features English trumpet star Nat Gonella. At the time, John Kirby’s wife was stylish singer Maxine Sullivan, and their two most successful collaborations, Loch Lomond and My Ideal, are included.