Once the long-playing record became the recording industry standard, jazz had an uneasy relationship with the jukebox. LPs allowed artists the freedom to stretch out in extended solos and longer compositions than the 78 afforded them, and thus any resulting singles tended to be edited versions or, in some cases, split in half over two sides of a record.
However, there were some artists who still reveled in the possibilities of the jukebox. Jukebox Jazz collects some of the better singles from the fifties, some by well-known artists and others by musicians who remained on the fringes of the music scene. Appropriately, there's plenty of rhythm & blues feel since it was a popular style at the time, and thus plenty of burbling organs and brawny tenors to fuel the bands. The whole album has the feel of the music wafting through a dark, smoky bar or a late-night AM radio show, and it is very much a product of its time. And though it was a vital part of what we call jazz (especially in Chicago), it remains a neglected segment, rarely heard today in favor of Davis and Coltrane and others who fit more comfortably under the jazz umbrella.
Singers like Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams were obviously at home with the three-minute single length, and there's also early experiments with vocalese courtesy of the King Fleming Quintette's "One O'Clock Jump. Coleman Hawkins, who had demonstrated an ability to turn songs into small poems in the 78 era, also took at crack at carving out hit instrumental singles. But there are also fine performances from relative unknowns, like the moody "Harlem Nocturne from Herbie Fields and a nifty instrumental called "Jan from Paul Bascomb. None ever achieved legendary status, but they are nevertheless fine work in the idiom.
There's probably enough material of this type to warrant a box set, or at least another volume in this series. One listen to this disc will make you eager for more. A fine collection of rare tracks restored to circulation.