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Extended Analysis

Chu Berry: Classic Columbia And Victor Sessions

By Published: September 8, 2007
Chu Berry
Classic Columbia And Victor Sessions
Mosaic Records

Loren Schoenberg gets to the heart of saxophonist Chu Berry's story near the end of his superlative liners when he notes that "Ghost Of A Chance," the 1940 ballad feature recorded by Cab Calloway's Orchestra in response to saxophonist Coleman Hawkins' immortal "Body and Soul," actually presents the one aspect of the tenor man's conception that doesn't date well. Since this is the only performance in Berry's short career that showcased his playing from start to finish, it has been the one that has been most remembered, at least among those who remember Berry at all. Schoenberg is admirably understated in suggesting that the present collection may help to restore Berry's reputation.

We tend to think of pre-modern tenor saxophone playing as being a matter of Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster and various Hawkins acolytes, with Berry generally included in this last group. In fact, Berry ranked right up there with Hawkins and Young during the 1930s. To this day Hawkins remains under-appreciated, while Berry has practically been forgotten.

Leon Berry was born September 13, 1908 and died following an automobile accident just 33 years later. His nickname was acquired during his early years as a touring musician, while he was still figuring out how to use the Hawkins template as a basis for his own designs. We can hear how quickly the young Berry found his own voice. Hawkins himself called Berry a genius and the recorded evidence gathered here is compelling. Unfortunately, chances to record as a leader were rare for big band sidemen of the era; two sessions that account for a dozen sides on this set, and two more wonderful sessions for Commodore, are all that Berry left under his own name.

Of 203 tracks collected here, over half come from dates led by Cab Calloway or Fletcher Henderson. Other leaders represented on multiple sessions are Lionel Hampton, Wingy Manone and Teddy Wilson (sideman recordings that featured no Berry soloing are not included). But each of these associations featured saxophone masterpieces that were admired by up-and-comers of the time, from the exciting work for Calloway in tandem with the young trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to the stunning "Limehouse Blues with Manone's trad-swing crossover band or "Sweethearts On Parade with a small Hampton combo. Saxophonist Charlie Parker certainly paid attention and there can be little doubt that Berry was the primary influence on the first real modern tenor player, Lucky Thompson (himself nearly forgotten). Even aspects of John Coltrane can be traced back to Berry, if indirectly.

All of this would be more than enough to make this release the front-running candidate for Box Set Of The Year. The presence of trumpeter Roy Eldridge, singer Billie Holiday, saxophonist Benny Carter and dozens of other swing masters doesn't hurt a bit, either. Spectacular sound transfers allow us to hear things far more clearly than before and Schoenberg's notes add immeasurably to our enjoyment. He consistently calls our attention to things we might miss, like the contributions of drummer Dave Tough, the way guitarist Allen Reuss and bassist Israel Cosby work together, or the fine playing of trumpeter Irving Randolph.

Mosaic has set the standard for throwing the spotlight on musicians relegated to the shadows, but they have never made a better job of restoring a musician to his rightful place in the jazz pantheon than they do here for the great Chu Berry.

Tracks: CD1: Blue Interlude; I Never Knew (Alternate Take); I Never Knew; Once Upon A Time; Krazy Kapers; Do Your Duty; I'm Down In The Dumps; (Lookie Lookie Lookie) Here Comes Cookie; When The Robin Sings His Song Again; Rosetta; I'll Never Say Never Again Again; Get Rhythm In Your Feet; Chasing Shadows (-2); Chasing Shadows (-1); When I Grow Too Old To Dream; I'd Love To Take Orders From You; I'd Rather Listen To Your Eyes; When Day Is Done; Twenty Four Hours A Day; Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town; Eeny Meeny Meiny Mo; I Hope Gabriel Likes My Music; Mutiny In The Parlor; Swing Is Here. CD2: Christopher Columbus; Grand Terrace Song; Blue Lou; Stealin' Apples; Moonrise On The Lowlands; I'll Always Be In Love With You; Jangled Nerves; Mary Had A Little Lamb; Too Good To Be True; Warmin' Up; Blues In C Sharp Minor; Where There's You There's Me; Do You Or Don't You Love Me; Mary Had A LIttle Lamb; Shoe Shine Boy; Sing, Sing, Sing; Knock, Knock Who's There? (Alternate Take); Knock, Knock Who's There?; Jim Town Blues; You Can Depend On Me; Slummin' On Park Avenue (-2); Slummin' On Park Avenue (-1); Rhythm Of The Tambourine; Back In Your Own Backyard; Rose Room; Great Caesar's Ghost. CD3: Now You're Talking My Language; Back Home Again In Indiana; Back Home Again In Indiana (Alternate Take); Too Marvellous For Words (Alternate Take); Too Marvellous For Words; Limehouse Blues (Alternate Take); Limehouse Blues; All God's Chillun Got Rhythm; Chris And His Gang; I'm Always In The Mood For You; She's Tall, She's Tan, She's Terrific; Go South, Young Man; Mama, I Want To Make Rhythm; Queen Isabella; Savage Rhythm; Chuberry Jam; Maelstrom (Alternate Take); Maelstrom; My Secret Love Affair; Ebb Tide; A Minor Breakdown (-1); A Minor Breakdown (-2); Bugle Blues; My First Impression Of You; With A Smile And A Song (-1); With A Smile And A Song (-2). CD4: When You're Smiling; I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me; Thanks For The Memory (Alternate Take); Thanks For The Memory; Lover Come Back To Me (Alternate Take); Lover Come Back To Me; Annie Laurie; Loch Lomond; My Marriuccia Take A Steam Boat; In The Land Of Yamo Yamo; Rustle Of Swing (Alternate Take); Rustle Of Swing; Three Swings And Out; I Like Music (With A Swing Like That); Penguin Swing; Peck-A-Doodle-Do; At The Clambake Carnival; Hoy-Hoy; Miss Hallelujah Brown; Shout, Shout, Shout; Jive (Page "1 Of The Hepster's Dictionary); Do You Wanna Jump, Children?; Blue Interlude; FDR Jones; That's All I Ask Of You (Alternate Take); That's All I Ask Of You. CD5: Floogie Walk; I Can Give You Love; High Society; Johnny Get Your Horn; Sweethearts On Parade; Shufflin' At The Hollywood (Alternate Take); Shufflin' At The Hollywood; Denison Swing; Wizzin' The Wizz (Alternate Take); Wizzin' The Wizz; Downright Disgusted Blues; Corrine Corrini; I'm A Real Kinda Papa; Jumpy Nerves; Boogie Woogie; Ain't Cha Coming Home?; Royal Garden Blues; In The Barrel; Farewell Blues; Fare Thee, My Baby, Fare-Thee-Well; Limehouse Blues; Trylon Swing; Utt-Da-Zay; Crescendo In Drums; The Jumpin' Blues. CD6: Pluckin' The Bass (Alternate Take); Pluckin' The Bass; I Ain't Going Nowhere Fast; Blue Lou; When The Saints Go Marching In; My Honey's Lovin' Arms; When My Sugar Walks Down The Street; Hot Mallets; A Bee Gezindt; Give, Baby, Give; Do It Again; Calling All Bars (Alternate Take); Calling All Bars; Do I Care? No, No (Alternate Take) Do I Care? No, No; The Lone Arranger(-2); The Lone Arranger(-1); Hard Times; Who's Yehoodi? (Alternate Take); Who's Yehoodi?; Come On With The 'Come On'; A Ghost Of A Chance (Alternate Take); A Ghost Of A Chance; Bye Bye Blues (Alternate Take); Bye Bye Blues. CD7: Papa's In Bed With His Britches On (Alternate Take-3); Papa's In Bed With His Britches On (Alternate Take-2); Papa's In Bed With His Britches On; Boo-Wah Boo-Wah (Alternate Take); Boo-Wah Boo-Wah; Cupid's Nightmare; Are You Hep To The Jive?; Hot Air; Lonesome Nights (Alternate Take); Lonesome Nights; A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird (Alternate Take); A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird (Breakdown); A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird; The Worker's Train; The Worker's Train(Breakdown); Run, Little Rabbit(Alternate Take); Run, Little Rabbit; Are You All Reet?(Alternate Take); Are You All Reet?; Special Delivery (Alternate Take-3); Special Delivery(Alternate Take-2); Take The 'A' Train; Hey Doc!; My Coo-Coo Bird (Could Sing).

Personnel: Chu Berry: tenor saxophone with: CD1: The Chocolate Dandies (under the direction of Benny Carter) Tracks 1-5. Bessie Smith, Orchestral Accompaniment by Buck And His Band Tracks 6 & 7. Teddy Hill & His Orchestra Tracks 8 & 9. Henry Allen & His Orchestra Tracks 10-12. Putney Dandridge & His Orchestra Tracks 13-15. Mildred Bailey & Her Swing Band Tracks 16-18. Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra Tracks 19-21. Gene Krupa's Swing Band Tracks 22-25. CD2: Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra Tracks 1-7. Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra Tracks 8-11. Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra Tracks 12-16. CD3: Berry & His Stompy Stevedores Tracks 1-7. Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra Tracks 8 & 9. Cab Calloway & His Orchestra Tracks 10-15. Berry & His Stompy Stevedores Tracks 16-20. Cab Calloway & His Orchestra Tracks 21-23. Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra Tracks 24-26. CD4: TW & His Orchestra Tracks 1 & 2. Mildred Bailey & Her Orchestra Tracks 3-6. Wingy Manone & His Orchestra Tracks 7-10. Cab Calloway & His Orchestra Tracks 11-24. Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra Tracks 25 & 26. CD5: Cab Calloway & His Orchestra Track 1. Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra Tracks 2-10. Wingy Manone & His Orchestra Tracks 11-15. Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra Track 16. Wingie (sic) Manone & His Orchestra Tracks 17-21. Cab Calloway & His Orchestra Tracks 22-25. CD6: Calloway & His Orchestra Tracks 1-3. Wingy Manone & His Orchestra Tracks 4-7. Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra Track 8. Cab Calloway & His Orchestra Tracks 9-25. CD7: Cab Calloway & His Orchestra Tracks 1-25 inclusive.

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