Though waxed less than a month apart the sessions coupled on this disc spotlight the talents of two stylistically divergent trumpeters. Newman was a Basie Band alum and firmly grounded in the pleasures and politics of swing. Allen’s sound was derived from older New Orleans traditions and his youthful tenure with Louis Armstrong’s big band. The fact that these two players and their Swingville albums presented here work so well together points to the primacy of jazz and it’s ability to ultimately transcend the provincialism of self-imposed boundaries. Swing and New Orleans Ragtime are just appellations for the deeper, all-inclusive tradition, one which both of these men take heavy and audible stock in.
Newman’s up to bat first leading a sophisticated quartet through baker’s half dozen of tunes. “Oh Gee,” written by the obscure trombonist Matthew Gee serves as an effective opener. Newman’s punchy brass works over the opening choruses with a clean, ringing tone before Flanagan’s keys finesse the melody with an amiable touch. “Dacquiri” shifts things south of the border with some Latinized traps work from English and gentle interplay between trumpet and piano. On “Blues for Slim” the four players lock into a seductive union of ideas that has Newman at his most lyrical. “The Very Thought of You” takes their relaxed rapport even further and is almost hypnotic in its mollifying beauty. “For You” moves across similar terrain with English’s fragile cymbals mirroring the sounds of gently snapping fingers. In contrast the brief version of “Strike Up the Band” cooks and shows Newman’s more ebullient side.
Allen’s sound was of a different era than Newman’s and listing to his unique stylings he reminds me a lot of Pee Wee Russell in both his originality and unpredictability. The back-up band, though populated by obscure players, weaves a supportive fabric for Allen to solo against. Potter is especially effective and incorporates a host of percussive effects with woodblocks and other devices that were important in the arsenals of most New Orleans drummers. Tune lengths are substantially shorter than on Newman’s date and paint in bold relief Allen’s economy of presentation. He’s not one to wax loquacious and often says what he has to say in the space of a few short choruses. Fortunately his brevity is matched with an abiding inclination for growling, guttural effects which he employs on numerous occasions. The truncated nature of the pieces also may be a nostalgic nod to the 78’ era during which his first recordings were documented. There’s also the opportunity to here Allen’s gruff vocals on “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and he belts out the lyrics with the same zest he applies to his horn on the instrumental breaks. If you dig brass this disc has your name on it!
Personnel: Joe Newman- trumpet; Tommy Flanagan- piano; Wendell Marshall- bass; Billy English- drums. Henry