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Various Artists: A Jumpin’ Jubilee: The Jam Sessions, 1945-46

The news that Wayne Newton, the Las Vegas showman, would be entertainer-in-chief for U.S. troops in Afghanistan coincided with the release of two CDs containing music broadcast to World War II servicemen and women. As this was written, the war against the Taliban was going well. We can only speculate about how Newton’s “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” may affect morale and fighting effectiveness. There has been no announcement that jazz would be a component of the U.S.O.’s entertainment of the fighters against terrorism. Six decades ago, it was a different story, particularly in the Armed Forces Radio Service’s Jubilee series of broadcasts.

These discs, released via Storyville imprints, contain music from shows recorded on 16-inch transcriptions and aired around the world on military bases and war ships and in service hospitals. The ad hoc big band on A Jumpin’ Jubilee includes Bobby Hackett, Manny Klein, Emmett Berry, Vic Dickenson, Willie Smith, Corky Corcoran and Slim Gaillard on a spirited “Sonny Boy,” with solos from all hands and a vocal by Leo Watson. Peggy Lee joins the band for a full-bodied arrangement of her “You Was Right, Baby.”

A superb rhythm section spurred by Shadow Wilson’s drums accompanies Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Buck Clayton on eight pieces. Young, not long out of the Army and his debilitating detention barracks experience, solos in top form on “D.B. Blues.” The irony of the title does not escape the audience of soldiers. Hawkins reprises his hit, “Body and Soul.” Still a light-footed improviser but with a tone much heavier than his prewar sound, Young matches Hawkins’ intensity on “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Helen Humes, with Clayton’s witty obbligato, sings one of her patented blues, “Unlucky Woman,” and gives a remarkable performance of “Don’t Blame Me.” The piece de resistance of the volume is a 1946 set by the Nat Cole Trio and drummer Buddy Rich backing alto saxophonists Benny Carter on “Body and Soul,” Willie Smith on “Tea for Two” and Charlie Parker on “Cherokee.” Parker incorporates a couple of clue licks from his Savoy recording of “Koko” into an otherwise fresh and equally astonishing solo on the piece. Cole and guitarist Oscar Moore’s comping behind Parker leaves no doubt that they were ideal accompanists for Bird, and there’s no doubt about where Oscar Peterson came to the inspiration for the Oscar Peterson Trio.

Jubilee Show No. 55 features the 1943 Count Basie band with the All American Rhythm Section mostly intact and Young back aboard, playing beautifully on “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” and “I Found a New Baby.” The presence of Joe Newman in the trumpet section and Jimmy Powell among the saxes symbolizes the transition from the classic Basie organization of the late ’30s and early ’40s to a slicker but still swinging outfit. Jimmy Rushing and Thelma Carpenter, both in good voice, are featured. A Teddy Wilson sextet driven by the great drummer Sid Catlett plays two tunes with superior solos from the leader, trumpeter Emmett Berry, trombonist Benny Morton and clarinetist Edmond Hall.

Jubilee Show No. 200, from 1946, is built around the band of Bobby Sherwood. Sherwood, a trumpeter and respected leader, got in on the swing era as big bands were waning. He managed to have one hit, “The Elks Parade.” The band was without star sidemen but populated with solid musicians whose ensemble playing was distinguished by precision swing and subtle dynamics. In this show it was graced by Paula Kelly and the Modernaires, one of the finest singing groups of the ’40s, and additional vocals by Jay Johnson, Liz Tilton and Sherwood himself. The quality of this band may come as a surprise to those who haven’t heard it.

The overscripted, excruciatingly hip MCing of Jubilee’s gregarious host Ernie “Bubbles” Whitman intrudes, but Storyville’s careful editing keeps it to a minimum. It could have been worse: Wayne Newton, anyone? From the sound of these two discs, the World War Two warriors got far and way the best entertainment deal.

Originally Published