Hot Club de France
Formed in the 1930s, the Hot Club of France, initially a jazz appreciation society, sponsored lots of jazz activity during the next several decades. Milan Records has sifted through the group’s concert recordings and come up with this sampler, which ranges from 1962 performances by Louis Armstrong to a 1980 performance by Memphis Slim. Unfortunately, the three Armstrong tracks (“Georgia on My Mind” and “St. Louis Blues,” both sung by Jewell Brown, and “Blueberry Hill,” sung by Armstrong) are perfunctory and short on horn work. The New Orleans Dippers, a French septet heard on three cuts (one with trumpeter Bill Coleman), get more individual solo space and do a respectable job.
Best of all are two cuts by pianist Willie “The Lion” Smith. “Echoes of Spring” and “Tea for Two” are full of lilting (and sometimes romping) stride rhythms, intricate arrangements, and fine embellishments that keep you interested all the way. Sister Rosetta Tharpe also has two tracks, but somehow I’m not as moved by her big voice as I should be.