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Extended Analysis

Charlie Shavers: Complete Recordings

By Published: September 16, 2005
Charlie Shavers
Complete Recordings
Lone Hill Jazz

What a windfall! In one burst of reissue fervor, Lone Hill presents over six original LPs worth of music from an unsung giant of the jazz trumpet—a true link between the world of swing as it emerged in the '20s and '30s and the new sound of bebop that Charlie Parker and his acolytes delivered into a stunned jazz arena in the '40s and '50s.

Charlie Shavers was a technically accomplished player, but he also had a gorgeously expressive tone, a richly unique sense of melodic improvisation, and—as an heir to Louis Armstrong—a dazzling ability to take a wide variety of material and raise it to his level with brio, enthusiasm, and notes that ring with joie de vivre. This material is from a period in which Shavers co-led a quartet with another unsung artist, pianist Ray Bryant. With each CD issue, the complete LPs are complemented by specially collected tunes from Shavers' At Le Crazy Horse Saloon, recorded live in Paris during 1964.

Volume 1 (originally released as Charlie Digs Paree and Charlie Digs Dixie), with bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Oliver Jackson, finds Shavers and Bryant tackling the kinds of tunes that have helped bring jazz to a mass audience though their efforts far surpass the easy playing usually associated with such projects. For a perfect illustration of the quiet yet bold mastery of these players, go to the theme from Moulin Rouge, a tune enormously popular in its day. Shavers and Bryant swing it softly in a shuffle rhythm without sacrificing any of the melodic attraction, soulfully making it a jazz tune.

Volume 2 collects Memorial and Here Comes Charlie, from 1959 and 1960, respectively. This sterling quartet finds wonder in material that ranges from the majestic to the mundane. Irving Berlin's classic "Russian Lullaby" opens with a Louis-like razzle-dazzle intro followed by a slight jazzing-up of the main theme. Bryant follows with a one-chorus solo followed by Shavers' two, a half-chorus by Bell, and finally the band playing the bridge out. It's gloriously concise. The bonuses once again come from the Crazy Horse Saloon, Shavers' spirit not flagged a bit. There's also a delightful version of "I've Got the World on a String," featuring an elegant and eloquent slow vocal by the trumpeter.

Shavers' pure trumpet playing brilliance is again on display from the outset of Volume 3 (originally Like Charlie and Excitement Unlimited). There's a breakneck reading of "The Best Things In Life Are Free," a deliciously muted version of "Taking a Chance on Love," a rolling-and-tumbling take on "In a Little Spanish Town," and a slow strip-tease performance of "You're My Everything." The Shavers horn is a force of nature and his performances are breathtakingly beautiful. On "Blues for Choos Loos," a Shavers original, he digs back to the roots and shows that he can "sing" the blues with the best of them.

A nice surprise on the Crazy Horse tracks is Shavers' lovely ballad take on "Fly Me to the Moon," certainly popular at the time of this recording. Then for something totally different, the larger group, an orchestra—including trombonist Billy Byers, saxophonists Jerome Richardson and Budd Johnson, and guitarist George Barnes—augments the quartet. Sy Oliver's arrangements allow the band to smoke through tunes like Shavers' most famous original, "Undecided," Dizzy's famous "Night in Tunisia," and Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings"—and quiet down on chestnuts like "Tenderly" and "I Loves You Porgy."


CD1: C'est Si Bon (It's So Good); Domino; Mam'selle; The Last Time I Saw Paris; Pigalle; Song From"Moulin Rouge" (Where Is Your Heart); Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup; Petite Fleur; My Man (Mon Homme); I Kiss Your Hand, Madame; Comme Ãi, Comme Ãa; I Love Paris; Alexander's Ragtime Band; Basin Street Blues; Jazz Me Blues; Beale Street Blues; If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight); Royal Garden Blues; At the Jazz Band Ball; Muskrat Ramble; Margie; St. Louis Blues; Daddy's Got the Gleeks; When the Saints Go Marching In; One O'Clock Jump; Man With a Horn; You Came a Long Way from St. Louis; Back Home Again in Indiana.

CD2: Girl of My Dreams; September in the Rain; What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry; Lover; I'll Get By; Out of Nowhere; Dream; Bye Bye Blackbird; Pennies from Heaven; Frenesi; Green Eyes; Let's Fall in Love; All of Me; Makin' Whoopee; Russian Lullaby; Taboo; You've Changed; It's All Right With Me; Loch Lomond; I Want a Little Girl; What Is This Thing Called Love?; On the Alamo; Undecided; All of You; Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; I've Got the World on a String; Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby.

CD3: The Best Things in Life Are Free; Taking a Chance on Love; In a Little Spanish Town; You're My Everything; My Old Kentucky Home; Carioca; In the Still of the Night; Soon; I'm a Fool to Love You; Blues for Choo Loos; I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles; Don't Be Late; It Might as Well Be Spring; Jada; But Beautiful; Fly Me to the Moon; It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing); Period of Adjustmen; Bossa Nova Petite; I Kid You Not; Porgy; Undecided; Opus 5; Night in Tunisia; Shiny Stockings; Minor Blues; Tenderly; School Days; Big Time Blues.


CD1: Aaron Bell: bass; Ray Bryant: piano; Oliver Jackson: drums; Charlie Shavers: trumpet, vocals.

CD2: Aaron Bell: bass; Ray Bryant: piano; Charlie Shavers: trumpet, vocals.

CD3: Ray Bryant: piano; Billy Byers: trombone; Oliver Jackson: drums; Budd Johnson: tenor saxophone; Bruce Martin: piano; Jerome Richardson: alto saxophone; Charlie Shavers: trumpet.

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