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Varous Artists: Columbia Small Group Swing Sessions 1953-62

In an ambitious display of musical archeology, Mosaic dug through the Columbia, Epic and Philips vaults and sorted out quite a cross-section of small-group jazz from 1953 to 1962. What the label found reveals musicians still clinging to the comforts of Dixieland, some representing the fading swing-band era and some trying to make the transition to bop. The joys of acoustic jazz are spread out over these eight CDs, and many of the tracks are either previously unreleased versions or alternate takes that offer insight into just how original these players were.

First up: Ruby Braff, an unabashed Louis Armstrong disciple. Listen to Braff’s “Star Dust” and you’ll hear the same strong high notes, lip flexibility and rich low tones produced by his mentor. There’s no bass on the opening set; Braff was pleased with the full accompaniment by guitarist Steve Jordan and pianist Dave McKenna. On the second session guitarist Freddie Green shows up with tenorist Coleman Hawkins, trombonist Lawrence Brown and baritonist Ernie Caceres for some clever head arrangements and slightly harder swing.

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