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Stuff Smith: The Naughty Waltz: Complete Tenor Sax Septets, 1937-1942

AB Fable is a label dedicated to the arcane world of jazz violin, which has for some years been producing rare and previously unavailable recordings, mostly of swing-era masters. One might say that Stuff Smith was the star attraction of the label. Only a handful of soloists could equal Smith when it came to hard swinging, and he proves it repeatedly on The Naughty Waltz. This collection contains some music that’s interesting mostly for historical reasons but much more that’s outright exciting-and the sound quality of these old broadcasts is generally quite good. Featured artists include Ben Webster, Herman Autrey, Jonah Jones and Teddy Wilson. Guitar fans should note that the excellent Al Casey solos are his earliest on record, actually predating the time when Casey told Stanley Dance he began playing leads.

The Stewart-Smith title is primarily drawn from recordings made at a private party. Though these sessions date from long after the protagonists’ glory days, one can’t describe the music as a trip down memory lane. Like Red Allen, Stewart developed an almost avant-garde approach to improvisation in his later years, extending his vocabulary of growls, smears and moans to extremes that Lester Bowie would have been proud of. For his part, Smith was always a maverick who always loved to coax unorthodox sounds from his ax. It must be noted that more conversation than music was recorded at the party, and while it’s fun to hear Smith and Stewart reminisce, it’s not necessarily something to return to. A whole disc of spectacular duos like “Summertime” and “Royal Garden Blues” would make this the record of the year. As it stands, it’s still a significant addition to both musicians’ catalogues.

Originally Published