Wild Bill Davison did not always front a go-for-broke Dixieland band playing his cornet above a high-octane rhythm section. Arbors Records has reissued two albums featuring Davison with strings. Pretty Wild and With Strings Attached, originally recorded in 1956 and 1957, reveal a lyrical, reflective Davison playing ballads and slow to medium tempo standards. This other side of Wild Bill Davison, a very attractive one, adds dimension to his reputation.
On Pretty Wild Davison plays with a jazz quartet and the Percy Faith Strings. The second album, With Strings Attached, features Davison with a session orchestra and a jazz sextet with a notable line-up that includes Bob Wilber on clarinet and Barry Gailbraith on guitar.
Davison is in good form throughout the two sessions, obviously inspired by the settings. Those who are familiar with Davison mainly through his famous Commodore recordings may be a bit surprised by the lush, clear ballad tone that Davison casually sustains. At times, he dips into a growly blues that diverges from the sweet tone of the strings, but for the most part he plays with a graceful assurance in synch with the arrangers’ ambitions.
The jazz groups are notable for some outstanding performances, especially on the With Strings Attached session. Bob Wilber’s solo work on “Now That You’re Gone,” and “Limehouse Blues” compliments Davison’s equally fine contributions. Trombonist Cutty Cutshall is also noteworthy for his concise, spirited playing.
In general, the string arrangements are fairly unobtrusive and at times succeed. Two of the more successful arrangements are “My Inspiration” and “Mountain Low.” In the latter, the exchanges between the jazz soloists and the strings are engaged and inspired. The typical faults of jazz string arrangements, too sweet playing or a superfluous string presence, emerge at times in both sessions, but Davison’s cornet thrives throughout – so who’s complaining?
This is a long CD with 24 tracks. The focus is on Wild Bill Davison’s solos and he consistently delivers. If you’re fortunate enough to own a copy of the Commodore recordings this reissue is a wonderful compliment to those rough and tumble performances. Arbors Records is also donating the net profits from the sale of this CD to the Wild Bill Davison Memorial Association of Defiance, Ohio.
Track Listing: Mandy, Make Up Your Mind;Black Butterfly;If I Had You; Just a Gigolo;Blue Again;When Your Lover Has Gone;Sugar;Sweet and Lovely; Rockin' Chair;She's Funny That Way;I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You; Wild Man Blues;Love Is Here to Stay; Blue (and Broken Hearted);It's The Talk of the Town; Mournin' Blues;Prelude to a Kiss; Sentimental Journey; You Turned the Tables on Me;My Inspiration;Now That You're Gone;Limehouse Blues;Moanin' Low;Serenade in Blue.
Personnel: On the first session - Percy Faith and His Strings; Gene Schroeder, piano; Art Ryerson, guitar; Frank Carroll, bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. On the second session - With Strings Attached Orchestra; Cutty Cutshall, trombone; Bob Wilber, clarinet; Gene Schroeder, piano; Barry Gailbraith, guitar; Jack Lesberg, bass; and Don Lamond, drums. Wild Bill Davison plays cornet on all tracks.