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Wild Bill Davison: The Jazz Giants

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A new CD reissue of the 1968 inaugural release from Canada-based Sackville Records, The Jazz Giants is a collection of standards socked home with style and consummate professionalism by a hard-driving team of veterans. The band, recorded only this once, was assembled for a stand at Toronto’s celebrated Colonial Tavern, but judging by the effortlessly intuitive groove they create, one could easily believe they’d been gigging together for decades.

Cornetist Wild Bill Davison, a longtime fixture in the Eddie Condon Orchestra, is the name above the title here, and his sharp yet muscular tone cuts through the proceedings like a lighthouse beacon. He wrings a defiant pathos from the Waller/Razaf chestnut “Black and Blue” (featured in both its original-release version and a previously unreleased alternate take), and on “I Found a New Baby,” he growls and cries with titanic force. Fellow Condon vet Herb Hall’s bouncy clarinet gives the music an understated ebullience, and he eases forth gorgeous low-register tones on “Dardanella.” Trombonist Benny Morton is a supple component of the sonic mix, while his solo on “I Would Do Anything for You” leaves a little bluesy gravy under your fingernails.

Pianist Claude Hopkins, the musical director for the Colonial gig and this recording session, is propulsive yet playful throughout, his galloping solo on the previously unreleased “Three Little Words” especially ear-catching. Hopkins finds able rhythmic support in the steady groove laid down by drummer Buzzy Drootin and bassist Arvell Shaw. A veteran of Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars ensemble, Shaw just might be the standout of this recording; he wrenches the heart with his arco-driven lead on “Yesterdays,” and his neck-snap solo on “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” is guitar-like in its deftness and heft. The Jazz Giants is old-school, nothing-but-swing jazz at its most enjoyable.

Originally Published