By January 1957, when this concert date was recorded at the Inn Club in Chicago, Gene Krupa’s salad days as a member of the Benny Goodman Orchestra and leader of his own big bands were behind him, but he remained a major figure on the Jazz scene, even though his flamboyant style of drumming, once considered state–of–the–art (at least in the public’s mind), had been overshadowed by the incomparable Buddy Rich and such be–bopping innovators as Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Roy Haynes, Ed Thigpen and others. Here Gene leads a reputable quartet comprised of the versatile Eddie Shu, muscular pianist Dave McKenna and dependable bassist John Drew. Shu plays tenor on the first three and last three numbers, harmonica on the fourth, alto sax on “My One and Only Love,” tenor again on “Willow Weep for Me,“ clarinet and trumpet on “As Long as I Live.” He’s listed as playing all those instruments except alto. But that’s only a minor glitch; a much larger one is the recording itself, which sounds at times as though someone had placed an auxiliary microphone next to Krupa’s bass drum (although the balance does improve from time to time as the program flows along). How Shu manages to play almost an entire tune off–mic, as he does on “Flying Home,” shall perhaps forever remain a mystery. But when he can be heard, Shu is a first–rate spokesman from the “cool school” (there’s a lot of early Getz in his lexicon) who has some interesting things to say. “Flying Home,” by the way, has trouble getting off the runway in the first few bars, as does the opener, “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” McKenna, twenty–six when the album was recorded, was hardly the masterful pianist he’s since become, but one can glimpse the seeds being planted. Krupa plays with admirable restraint when Shu or McKenna is soloing, and doesn’t hog the solo spotlight, as he was once wont to do. Although this is by no means an indispensable item for one’s record library, and the recording quality is often sub–par, it’s a crowd–pleasing session that may settle easily on the ears of Krupa partisans.
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Personnel: Gene Krupa, drums; Eddie Shu, tenor, alto sax, harmonica, clarinet, trumpet; Dave McKenna, piano; John Drew, bass.