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Record Label Profiles

Storyville Records: A Treasure Trove of Swinging Jazz

By Published: December 22, 2010
Covered in the box, of course, is the historic concert the Ellington band made at the Crystal Ballroom, Fargo, North Dakota on November 7, 1940. Thanks to two Ellington fans and amateur recording engineers, Jack Towers and Dick Burris, the entire Dakota performance was recorded (save for a few drop-outs occasioned when changing the shellac disc on the pair's single-turntable cutter), providing a comprehensive record of the band during a five-set evening's work. The sound, which over the years has been refined several times by Towers, is outstanding throughout the two-and-a-half hours of the Fargo concert, which make up the entirety of discs two and three.

Johnny Hodges

Storyville Masters Of Jazz: Johnny Hodges

Storyville Records

2006

Johnny Hodges' exquisite sound—"so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to my eyes," said Ellington—is foregrounded on this 19-track anthology, spanning the 20 years from 1943-64.

The first two tracks feature Hodges with the Ellington orchestra; track two, "Passion Flower," written by Strayhorn for Hodges, has the composer at the piano in place of Ellington. Most of the others, all made by smaller groups, include Ellingtonians in their lineups. An unexpected twist is a 1954 recording of Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone," featuring John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
on tenor saxophone, alongside Ellingtonians trumpeter Shorty Baker
Shorty Baker
b.1914
and trombonist Lawrence Brown.

The disc closes with a wonderful octet recording of Ellington's "Dooji Wooji," featuring Ellingtonians trumpeter Cat Anderson
Cat Anderson
Cat Anderson
1916 - 1981
trumpet
, tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves
Paul Gonsalves
Paul Gonsalves
1920 - 1974
sax, tenor
, clarinetist Russell Procope and drummer Sam Woodyard
Sam Woodyard
Sam Woodyard
1925 - 1988
drums
, and also including the British-born pianist Victor Feldman
Victor Feldman
Victor Feldman
1934 - 1987
multi-instrumentalist
.

As with The Duke Box, most of the tracks here are taken from live recordings, but the sound, as with the box, is consistently better than average. There are many fine Hodges samplers around, and this is one of them.

Other artists featured in the Storyville Masters Of Jazz series include pianists Art Tatum
Art Tatum
Art Tatum
1909 - 1956
piano
, Teddy Wilson
Teddy Wilson
Teddy Wilson
1912 - 1986
piano
and Earl Hines
Earl Hines
Earl Hines
1903 - 1983
piano
, saxophonists Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
1928 - 2008
sax, tenor
and Sidney Bechet
Sidney Bechet
Sidney Bechet
1897 - 1959
sax, soprano
, violinist Stuff Smith
Stuff Smith
Stuff Smith
1909 - 1967
violin
and singer Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
.

Various Artists

The Blues Box

Storyville Records

2009

With The Blues Box, we come full circle on this small selection of discs from Storyville's vast catalogue: for the blues, of course, were fundamental to European revivalism, stemming from blues retentions in the original New Orleans-style material which inspired the movement. The blues in their own right also drove two members in particular of the Ken Colyer band which inaugurated Storyville's recording program: trombonist Chris Barber
Chris Barber
Chris Barber
b.1930
trombone
and guitarist, banjoist and singer Lonnie Donegan.

The seven CDs in the box feature a variety of urban and country blues artists recorded in Copenhagen from 1956-77, mostly in the 1960s. The roster includes pianists/vocalists Otis Spann
Otis Spann
Otis Spann
1930 - 1970
piano
, Speckled Red
Speckled Red
Speckled Red
1892 - 1973
piano
, Sunnyland Slim
Sunnyland Slim
Sunnyland Slim
1907 - 1995
piano
Roosevelt Sykes
Roosevelt Sykes
Roosevelt Sykes
1906 - 1983
piano
, Little Brother Montgomery
Little Brother Montgomery
1906 - 1985
piano
, Sippie Wallace
Sippie Wallace
Sippie Wallace
1898 - 1986
vocalist
, Memphis Slim
Memphis Slim
Memphis Slim
1915 - 1988
piano
, Champion Jack Dupree
Champion Jack Dupree
Champion Jack Dupree
1909 - 1992
piano
, Eddie Boyd and Jay McShann; guitarists/vocalists Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie Johnson
1899 - 1970
guitar
, Big Joe Williams
Big Joe Williams
Big Joe Williams
1903 - 1982
guitar
, Sleepy John Estes
Sleepy John Estes
Sleepy John Estes
1899 - 1977
guitar, acoustic
, Robert Pete Williams
Robert Pete Williams
Robert Pete Williams
1914 - 1980
guitar
, Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy
1893 - 1958
guitar, acoustic
, John Henry Barbee and Brownie McGhee; and harmonica players/vocalists Sonny Boy Williamson II
Sonny Boy Williamson II
Sonny Boy Williamson II
1897 - 1965
harmonica
and Sonny Terry
Sonny Terry
Sonny Terry
b.1911
. A companion DVD features performances from Dupree, Williamson, guitarist/vocalist Robert Lockwood Jr and pianists/vocalists James Carroll Booker 111, Henry Gray
Henry Gray
Henry Gray
b.1925
piano
and Cousin Joe
Cousin Joe
b.1907
, among others.

By the time these recordings were made most of the musicians were in their 60s—in 2010, still old by the standards prevailing in the blues world, and at the time the recordings were made, older still. But like good wine, blues musicians improve with age, acquiring a gravitas befitting the wrenched-from-real life subject matter of their songs. The Blues Box does its veteran artists proud and is an invaluable historical resource. The large format, 40 page booklet includes authoritative biographies of all the artists by Chris Albertson, adding to the box's substance.

Tracks and Personnel

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