In the ‘20s, Chicago was one of jazz’s key geographic streams, and at the heart of the city’s music was the famed Austin High School gang, a group of young men who loved the new music so much they decided to play it. Amongst this group—which included Frank Teschemacher, Eddie Condon, Jimmy McPartland, and sometimes Benny Goodman—was tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman. Born 1906 in Chicago and died 1991 in the same city, Freeman spanned the century, and he spent almost all his life playing the music he helped build from the ground up.
This CD is a successful mix of three separate sessions: a 1960 quintet album, a 1962 jam session album, and—the jewel—four selections from 1935 which feature the legendary trumpeter Bunny Berigan. The 1960 sessions include trumpeter Shorty Baker; best known for his work with Duke Ellington in the ‘40s and ‘50s, Baker also has deep musical roots, including playing with Fate Marable on riverboats in the ‘30s. The nine songs are a delight—Freeman and Baker play with effortless precision, and pianist Claude Hopkins, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer J.C. Heard provide a fresh, swinging groove. There’s standards such as “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” and “But Not for Me,” and also blues, ballads, and even a march.
The three cuts from 1962 are equally enjoyable, particularly the rambunctious “Darktown Strutters Ball.” Except for Freeman, the personnel is entirely different, and includes Pee Wee Erwin and Big Chief Russell Moore. The four 1935 cuts are sublime, and at the same time provide a jazz history lesson: produced by John Hammond, there’s Freeman on clarinet and tenor sax, Berigan on trumpet, Eddie Condon on guitar, Claude Thornhill on piano, Grachan Moncur on bass, and Cozy Cole on drums. It’s always good to see these names in the light of day, and it’s important to remember how groundbreaking this music truly was, including the fact that the group was integrated, a rarity at the time. Berigan’s trumpet sings and soars, and satisfies with its complete authenticity.
This CD is a generous offering, with 15 cuts of fine music and reprints of the original liner notes by venerable critics Nat Hentoff and Dan Morgenstern. The music is utterly enjoyable and completely relevant; as Hentoff says in the liner notes, “[J]azz listeners... have a surprisingly wide-ranging reservoir of what has already been accomplished to draw on for comparison and for refreshing senses. No era or stylistic group ever had a monopoly of artistic ‘truth’—or ‘soul'."
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Personnel: Bunny Berigan - Trumpet;
Eddie Condon - Guitar;
Bud Freeman - Clarinet, Tenor Sax;
Claude Hopkins - Piano;
Claude Thornhill - Piano;
Cozy Cole - Drums;
Pee Wee Erwin - Trumpet;
Leonard Gaskin - Bass;
Red Richards - Piano;
Herb Hall - Clarinet;
Grachan Moncur III - Bass;
George Duvivier - Bass;
Herman Autrey - Trumpet;
Harold Baker - Trumpet;
J.C. Heard - Drums;
Herb Lovelle - Drums;
Big Chief Russell Moore - Trombone;
Dicky Wells - Trombone.