December 2004

Various Artists
Tribute to a Generation: A Salute to the Big Bands of the WWII Era
Smithsonian Folkways

Another nostalgic document, with the accent on document, is Tribute to a Generation: A Salute to the Big Bands of the WWII Era (Smithsonian Folkways) by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Recorded on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this monster band is led by two jazz heavyweights in David Baker and Gunther Schuller. Spread over 17 tracks, by way of suggestion, transcription and imitation (right down to most of the solos even) are from the repertories of Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Carter and Benny Goodman. That means serious omissions: Jimmie Lunceford, Earl Hines, Stan Kenton, Cab Calloway, Harry James and, most inexcusably, Count Basie! We should expect better representation from the Smithsonian. But in all fairness, you can't expect better playing from the likes of Gary Smulyan, Ken Peplowski, Victor Goines, Britt Woodman, Sir Roland Hanna, Keter Betts or Chuck Redd, and the CD's well-researched, 32-page booklet is worth the price of admission.

Originally published in December 2004

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