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The Blue Note Swingtets: The Blue Note Swingtets

The eighteen tracks in this set were recorded in 1944 and ’46, before swing was dethroned. Five leaders were involved: Tiny Grimes and Benny Morton for two tracks each; John Hardee and Jimmy Hamilton for three each; and Ike Quebec for eight. Sandwiched, as it were, between Blue Note’s affair with boogie woogie and New Orleans on the one hand and its subsequent dedication to “modernism” on the other, a less familiar part of the label’s catalog is illustrated.

Alfred Lion’s hip taste is shown once more in the fine array of players presented. Besides three first-class tenors-Hardee, Quebec and Ben Webster-there are Trummy Young, Tyree Glenn, Keg Johnon, Henderson Chambers, and Morton on trombone; Jonah Jones, Buck Clayton, Shad Collens and Ray Nance on trumpet; Barney Bigard, Harry Carney, and Hamilton on clarinet; Ram Ramirez, Marlowe Morris, Sammy Benskin, Dave Rivera, and Jimmy Jones on piano; Gene Ramey, Milt Hinton, Oscar Pettiford, Grachan Moncur, and Israel Crosby on bass; Sid Catlett, J.C. Heard, and Eddie Dougherty on drums; and on guitar, Jimmy Shirley, Snags Allen, John Collins, and Grimes. For newcomers, a collection such as this can provide a lot of quick introductions to important talent.

The playing for the most part is buoyant and assured. Hardee, a Texas tenor well worth getting to know, offers another example of Chu Berry’s widespread influence at that time. Needless to say, he gets tough competition from Quebec and Webster, masters both. It is very rewarding, too, to hear Ram Ramirez on piano; on seven tracks, he is always in calm control of the situation. Equally satisfying is Sid Catlett’s contribution to six numbers. Quebec’s “Blue Harlem” was a Harlem hit and remains a good example of how surely blues played with feeling could communicate.

Originally Published