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Chubby Jackson: Ooh, What an Outfit!

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If a film made during the mid-1950s featured a scene in jazz club, it always included one particular stock character: the guy who was juiced out of his mind, throwing his head back and yelling things like “Go, man, go!” toward the stage. Chubby Jackson didn’t need way-gone cats like that because he did the yelling himself. Remote radio broadcasts made at the Royal Roost for New York’s WMCA capture an impressive set by Jackson’s powerful 17-piece band, marred somewhat by his exhortations, not to mention the insufferable commentary of radio host Symphony Sid. Thankfully this two-disc document is drawn from different sources, and not all of them include the bassist-turned-bandleader chewing up the scenery.

Jackson’s career boasts an odd confluence of work. He cut his teeth with the bands of Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman. After leading a short-lived bop sextet, the big band bridged the gap between Herman’s First Herd and the sonorities later heard on Birth of the Cool. (The band was together for only a year and didn’t live to see its token release, an EP.) Later in life, he hosted kids’ television shows, recorded a square-dance album and played with Lionel Hampton. As always, Uptown crams the CD booklet full of photos, vintage articles and detailed notes.

The first disc features two 1949 remotes from the Roost. Jackson was trying to outdo Herman at his own roaring game and the music, arranged and written in part by drummer Tiny Kahn, hits the mark. “Lemon Drop,” with its scatted vocal by Jackson, betrays his bebop knowledge. “Godchild,” which Gil Evans would later arrange for Miles Davis, also appears here in fine form. Between live performances, the album includes a rehearsal set by trumpeter Gene Roland’s Boppers. Though they don’t include Jackson, the four tracks feature his rhythm section along with the saxophone section of Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan in an intriguing pre-cool unit.

While part of disc two is marred by inferior sound quality and the subpar vocals of Paula Castle, the shortcomings are overshadowed by the superior tracks from Jackson’s Fifth Dimensional Jazz Group. Recorded for the Cupol label in Stockholm two years prior to the big band, the group includes Conte Candoli (trumpet), Frank Socolow (alto), Terry Gibbs (vibes), Lou Levy (piano), Denzil Best (drums) and Jackson, who was still manning his bass at the time. The six tracks offer superior bop that owes much to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, plus some of Jackson’s original ideas. The disc closes with an amusing version of “My Ideal” featuring Lennie Tristano and a monologue that proves how, in addition to being a strong bandleader, Jackson was also a ham.

Originally Published