Harry James: Eight Bar Riff ’43-’50

The U.K.-based Hep label has been steadily reissuing valuable swing-era recordings (in addition to recording new sessions) since 1974. Its most recent batch contains a few gems. Although criticized by some for his pop hits, Harry James was one of the great trumpeters of the 1940s. Eight Bar Riff ’43-’50 shows just how good a band he had during 1943-46 and 1950. The 23 jazz-oriented performances, taken from radio broadcasts, are full of fireworks, in addition to a rare version of Bix Beiderbecke’s “In a Mist.” Slim Gaillard, a colorful guitarist and pianist, invented a highly original and nutty jive talk language full of “McVouty,” “vout” and “orooney.” Ice Cream on Toast 1937-47 contains a mixture of interesting studio recordings and rare broadcasts, including a radio show on which Frank Sinatra (whose every sound inspires screams by an audience full of bobby-soxers) joins Gaillard’s band for some hilarious jive. More sober and long forgotten, the New Friends of Rhythm consisted of a string quartet, guitar, bass, harpist Laura Newell (the star of the group) and sometimes clarinet. Cellist Alan Shulman provided the arrangements, which combined classical elements with swing; only the occasional clarinetists improvised. All of the group’s recordings plus a 1939 radio broadcast are contained on 1939-1947 Performances. Stuff Smith, one of the most exciting jazz violinists of all-time, had a popular and hard-swinging sextet/septet that was featured at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street. The Complete 1936-1937 Sessions co-stars trumpeter Jonah Jones, has three selections from broadcasts in addition to the studio performances, and is highlighted by “After You’ve Gone,” “Old Joe’s Hittin’ the Jug” and the remarkable “Here Comes the Man With the Jive.”