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October 1999

Pee Wee Russell
Swingin' With Pee Wee
Prestige

Pee Wee Russell wasn't forced into the trad style by the post-war breakup of the big bands; he had always worked in that format. But Pee Wee's voice was unique, as if he decided to carve his style from just the kind of awkward phrasing that most players whittle out of their work as they mature. Everything about his music, from the bittersweet, slightly Lesterish tone to his completely unpredictable ensemble lines, is so original that he could be considered as much a swing or even a modern player as a traditionalist. He is joined by Buck Clayton on Swingin' With Pee Wee. The ever-great Clayton responds with some odd phrasing of his own on this mainstream-style date supported brilliantly, again, by Flanagan. Portrait of Pee Wee reunites Russell with the redoubtable Bud Freeman in the front line, along with Ruby Braff and Vic Dickenson. Pianist Nat Pierce contributes Kansas City-style arrangements and some of his best playing, but the stars are really Freeman and Russell, two greats who still deserve much wider recognition.

Originally published in October 1999
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