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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Pee Wee Russell: Portrait Of Pee Wee

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Pee Wee Russell was an early pioneer, a Dixieland veteran, and an inspired clarinetist with an unusual voice. No less than Gene Krupa once said that he had “the most fabulous musical mind... I've never run into anybody who had that much musical talent.

During the fifties, long after his style of music had fallen out of favor, he stayed at the top of his game by absorbing the new styles that had come along, recording Coleman tunes with a piano-less quartet for Impulse! and gigging with Thelonious Monk. However, Portrait of Pee Wee, a compilation of recordings from that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Pee Wee Russell: Ask Me Now!

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Who says you can't teach an old dog--or an old clarinetist--new tricks? Approaching his 60th birthday in the early '60s, Pee Wee Russell, long associated with Dixieland and traditional jazz, formed a new pianoless quartet with trombonist Marshall Brown and started exploring the more modern sounds of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and even Ornette Coleman. The finest fruit of that collaboration was Ask Me Now!, an exceptional 1963 session for Impulse! that seamlessly mixes the old with the new, and certainly makes the case for Russell as a progressive--and the bigger case that great artists can often transcend ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Pee Wee Russell: Ask Me Now

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Pee Wee Russell enjoyed a significant comeback with the original release of this session. Not content to live in the past, Russell doesn’t gaze in the rearview mirror as far back as we would expect. First off, he has chosen a program of (at the time) modern works by the likes of Coleman, Monk, and Coltrane, instead of the earlier jazz tunes that were his forte. Second, Russell dispenses with a piano and instead shares the front line Marshall Brown on valve trombone and bass trumpet, again showing a decidedly forward thinking line-up.

However, instead of coming ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Pee Wee Russell: Swingin' With Pee Wee

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Pee Wee Russell was an odd-duck of a clarinetist who in his idiosyncratic way foreshadowed some of the innovations of modern jazz. His playing at times seems “off" in the way that some of the earliest jazz sounds almost otherworldly with its unique tones and timbres. Russell’s expressive slides and dips pre-figure the likes of the later Lester Young, and in our day Lee Konitz, especially when his playing became more voice-like, and the expectations of others seemed to matter even less. It seems the better Russell played the more idiosyncratic he got. Pee Wee was a natural odd duck. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Pee Wee Russell: Swingin' with Pee Wee

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“We just made a record,” he said at the bar. “And it was a good one – I think.” The formula was simple: after Buck Clayton was picked for the front line, the producer was told to get a rhythm section. “You go ahead and surprise me. I trust your judgment. But don’t make it a ‘Dixieland’ section.” What he got was Tommy Flanagan, and a modern sheen for the old horn. A similar tack was taken in 1958, on a session for Counterpoint. Nat Pierce set smooth horns against Pee Wee, for strength and for contrast. It works in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Pee Wee Russell: Swingin' with Pee Wee

Read "Swingin' with Pee Wee"

“We just made a record,” he said at the bar. “And it was a good one – I think.” The formula was simple: after Buck Clayton was picked for the front line, the producer was told to get a rhythm section. “You go ahead and surprise me. I trust your judgment. But don’t make it a ‘Dixieland’ section.” What he got was Tommy Flanagan, and a modern sheen for the old horn. A similar tack was taken in 1958, on a session for Counterpoint. Nat Pierce set smooth horns against Pee Wee, for strength and for contrast. It works in ...



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