Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Various Artists: Classic Capitol Jazz Sessions

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Departing from its customary practice of presenting complete sets of single artists or bands, Mosaic here brings to light 65 sessions recorded for Capitol by various groups of jazzmen between 1942 and 1953, their major connecting factor being that, for the most part, they have not been available since their initial appearance on 78s, EPs, and 10-inch LPs. Additionally, among the 254 tracks included there are 46 that have never been issued in any form, some being alternate takes and others being wholly new performances. Mosaic has already issued complete sets of Capitol recordings by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, the Nat King Cole Trio, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Jack Teagarden, the Benny Goodman Small Groups and the George Shearing Sextet, so selections from these are not duplicated here. Also omitted for reasons of space are the many sessions by Red Nichols, Billy Butterfield, Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet, Art Tatum, Julia Lee, Peggy Lee and Pete Dailey, as well as others of smaller output, such as those by Coleman Hawkins, Lennie Tristano, and Miles Davis. Some of these are available on single Capitol CDs, while others may yet appear on Mosaic.

In another departure from tradition, rather than following a strictly chronological order in the presentation of these sessions, Mosaic has arranged them more or less according to commonality of style. However, chronological sequencing is adhered to within the space allotted each individual artist or recording group, i.e., the 12 Nappy Lamare tracks recorded between 1945 and 1950 are programmed in their entirety before moving on to Wingy Manone’s first date in 1944. This is a perfectly logical way of handling the wide variety of styles and instrumentations heard on these heterogeneous sessions, and, rather than jolting the listening experience by sudden stylistic leaps, it actually enhances it.

The seven opening tracks by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra are most notable for the inclusion of Billie Holiday’s sole appearance on Capitol, “Trav’lin’ Light,” although it is also good to hear Johnny Mercer and Jack Teagarden sing “The Old Music Master” and the band’s first foray into revivalism with the 1920s arrangements of “San” and “Wang Wang Blues.” Along with many other recordings sprinkled throughout the set, these first appeared on Capitol’s History Of Jazz LP series. The next assorted sessions are linked together by the featured presence of a number of former sidemen of the Bob Crosby Orchestra and Bob Cats. The first 14 tracks are by tenorman Eddie Miller’s big and medium-sized bands and, because of Paul Weston’s and, particularly, clarinetist Matty Matlock’s arrangements, they provide a strong connection with the 1930s Crosby period. Following these, with Miller and Matlock still in the forefront, are five small band dixie-styled sessions under the various leadership credits of Nappy Lamare. Ray Bauduc, and Marvin Ash, all but Ash ex-Crosbyites. A close companion of the Bob Cats crew, New Orleans trumpeter/vocalist Wingy Manone leads the next five sessions, which are highlighted for the most part by Matlock, who again surfaces on the Johnny Mercer/Ben Pollack date. Four unissued Bob Cats-like titles by former Crosby arranger Dean Kincaide (with Yank Lawson, Cutty Cutshall, Peanuts Hucko, and Dave Bowman) then precede a most unusual jive session by vocalist Scatman Crothers with Vic Dickenson and rhythm.

Disc Four opens with nine tracks by New Orleans pianist Armand Hug, after which we hear the last three titles ever recorded by the once prolific C- Melody saxist Frankie Trumbauer, two by tenorman Pud Brown and the entirety of a superb ten-inch LP recorded by Bud Freeman in 1953. The transition from traditionally based jazz to swing takes place midway on the next disc, where we hear eight opening tracks featuring Barney Bigard with Zutty Singleton (inclusive of two alternate takes from the trio) and a long unheard Bobby Hackett session from the Melrose label, which backs up the two issued 78 titles with one alternate each and two more tunes that were never issued at all. The sounds of Harlem in Hollywood next emerge in the form of a session initially issued under the names of Sid Catlett and Al Casey and which feature Illinois Jacquet, Joe Guy and Willie Smith. Disc Six is devoted largely to the complete output of the Capitol Jazzmen, two studio-assembled jam groups showcasing such giants as Jack Teagarden, Jimmie Noone, Barney Bigard, Eddie Miller, Joe Sullivan and Pete Johnson. Note, however, that the playing order of the alternate and master takes of both “Solitude” and “Sugar” are in reverse sequence from that listed in the booklet’s discography, and that inserted between these two sessions are four similarly manned issued performances, including one unissued alternate, credited to Jack Teagarden’s Chicagoans. A four-title, all-vocal set by Anita O’Day wraps this one up.

Disc Seven opens with the Giants Of Jazz’s two-part studio recording of film theme “A Song Was Born,” featuring Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet and Mel Powell, and a novelty coupling by the Ten Cats And A Mouse. The Benny Carter big band follows with 17 tracks highlighted by the leader’s virtuosic trumpet feature on “I Surrender Dear” and his equally fluent alto work on “I Can’t Get Started” (two takes) and “Prelude To A Kiss.” Also note Carter’s brilliant writing for the saxes on “I Can’t Escape From You,” another two-take performance, and the background scoring on the moody “Malibu.” Tenorman Bumps Myers is also heard in compelling, Ben Webster-tinged solos on “Cuttin’ Time” and “Just You, Just Me.” Disc Eight is devoted to pianists Jess Stacy, Joe Sullivan, and Mel Powell and, while only one of Stacy’s offerings,” “Can’t We Be Friends,” is a masterpiece, Sullivan’s are all gems. Originally issued on two EPs, his eight titles are here presented for the first time in unedited form, with the bonus of an unissued alternate on “I Got It Bad.” Powell is heard on 12 tracks ranging from the dixielandish “Muskrat Ramble” through a Tatumesque treatment of “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans” and a boppish “Cookin’ One Up.” Bumps Myers is also heard to good advantage on many of the Powell titles.

Cootie Williams’ R&B-oriented big band recorded 26 tracks for Capitol during 1945 and ’46, including 12 that were withheld from release. They are all presented here, with marvelous statements from the leader, vocalist/altoman Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and broad-toned tenorman Sam “The Man” Taylor. Vinson’s unique vocal sound was so popular that when he left the band in January 1946, trumpeter Bob Merrill was hired to imitate him. Following two tracks by Johnny Hodges-influenced altoman Murray McEachern, Disc Ten proceeds with stirring sessions by Rex Stewart, with Lawrence Brown, Al Sears, Harry Carney, and Eddie Heywood, and Sonny Greer, whose front line boasts Barney Bigard, Taft Jordan and Otto Hardwicke. These 1944-45 Ellingtonian sounds lead quite seamlessly into a 1952 Louis Bellson date featuring Clark Terry, Juan Tizol, Willie Smith, Wardell Gray, Carney and Billy Strayhorn, which then gives way to ten tracks by guitarist Carl Kress in varying contexts, the best of which feature sprightly solos by clarinetist Hank D’Amico, trumpeter Chris Griffin and tenorman Artie Drelinger. This disc ends with eight tracks by Kay Starr, whose backup group includes Red Norvo.

Norvo then rounds off the set with 13 tracks under his own name and a sideman appearance on a final six by clarinetist Stan Hasselgard, the most boppish of anything yet heard in the collection. Dotting the Norvo sides in various configurations are Benny Carter, Eddie Miller, Jimmy Giuffre, Dexter Gordon and Dodo Marmarosa, while Hasselgard’s crew also includes Barney Kessel and pianist Arnold Ross. This final session contains alternates of “Sweet And Hot Mop” and “I’ll Never Be The Same.” As noted above, much more remains in the Capitol vaults awaiting comprehensive reissue, not only from the early period but from later ones as well.