Buck Clayton & Harry Allen/Randy Sandke: Old Wine, New Bottles

Jack Bowers By

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Assuming that these were new albums from the busy Nagel Heyer assembly line, I asked for review copies, only to find that they are in fact "old wine in new bottles. Both were previously released in 1999—Turnstile as Music Of The Trumpet Kings, and Buck Clayton Swings The Village as Live Fom Greenwich Village, NYC. As nothing has changed save the album titles and cover photos (the liner notes are the same), I shall herewith recycle, in condensed versions, my earlier reviews.

Harry Allen/Randy Sandke
Nagel Heyer

Happiness is the keynote from which this auspicious encounter between tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, trumpeter Randy Sandke and Germany's superb RIAS Big Band derives its creative impulse. Beyond that are the luminous charts (all but one of which, Buck Clayton's modish, Jimmie Lunceford-style "Rolls Royce, are by Sandke), their contemporary inflections offset by random echoes of the swing era; immutably swinging solos by Sandke, Allen, RIAS leader/trombonist Jiggs Whigham and sidemen Till Brönner (trumpet) and Ingo Cramer (guitar); and remarkably fine-tuned section work by the ensemble, all in the service of wonderful songs that resonate with sunny good humor.

Allen and Sandke, each of whom is able to adapt easily to a number of styles from swing to post-bop are consistently impressive soloists, with Allen displaying, at faster tempos, more than a superficial resemblance to the great tenor saxophonist Stan Getz. Sandke, on the other hand, is more the chameleon, and it's hard to describe or enumerate his many influences, not that it matters. His improvisations are consistently persuasive on their own terms. If their performance approaches the realm of flawless, it is no more so than that of Whigham's topnotch RIAS ensemble, which never loses its balance or wavers in its purpose. Put 'em all together, they spell awesome.

Buck Clayton
Buck Clayton Swings The Village
Nagel Heyer

This is music from the heart, a throwback to those memorable days when Jimmie Lunceford, Jay McShann, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb and Duke Ellington helped redefine the boundaries of jazz and big bands swung like there was no tomorrow.

Buck Clayton, seventy-eight years old when this recording was made, and only twenty-two months before his passing, knew about swing from the inside out—he was a featured trumpet soloist with Basie and Goodman and played alongside many of the most renowned music-makers of the swing era—and his sunny, perceptive charts suffuse and enliven this consistently rewarding session. Clayton, whose playing days were, alas, behind him, wrote nine of the dozen tunes, co-wrote the others and arranged all of them.

The album is first and foremost about swinging, and few ensembles in recent years have done so with greater warmth or insight than Buck Clayton's irrepressible Swing Band. I'll end this reprise by citing the opening sentence of that earlier review: If you'd like an up-to-date example of why the first golden age of big-band music in this country was known as the swing era, simply insert this wonderful disc in your CD player and crank up the volume.

Enthusiastic endorsements by any measure, and as noted, only the names and cover photos are new. The music is unchanged, and warrants the same one-word description as before—marvelous.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: I Love Louis; Cloudy; Echoes Of Harlem; Little Jazz Boogie; I Can't Get Started; Melancholy Rhapsody; Randy's Rolls Royce; Shaw 'Nuff; All Blues; Turnstile; Relaxin' at Clifford's; The Moontrane; Birdlike.

Personnel: Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; Randy Sandke: trumpet, arranger. RIAS Big Band: Jiggs Whigham: leader, trombone; Till Brönner, Greg Bowen, Dieter Bilsheim, Christian Grabandt: trumpets; Norbert Nagel, Klaus Marmulla: alto saxophones; Walter Gauchel, Gregoire Peters: tenor saxophones; Helmut Wenzel: baritone saxophone; Thomas Loup, John Marshall, Sören Fischer: trombones; Andy Grossmann: bass trombone; Ingo Cramer: guitar; Kai Rautenberg: piano; Hajo Lange: bass; Holger Nell: drums.

Swings The Village

Tracks: Scorpio; Swingin' On The State Line; Horn O' Plenty; Rise And Shine; The One For Me; B.C. Special; Black Sheep Blues; Sparky; A Song For Sarah; Cadillac Taxi; What A Beautiful Yesteryear; The Bowery Bunch.

Personnel: Buck Clayton: leader, conductor; John Eckert, Jordan Sandke, Byron Stripling, Warren Vaché: trumpets; Jerry Dodgion: alto saxophone; Doug Lawrence, Frank Wess: tenor saxophones; Scott Robinson, Joe Temperley: baritone saxophones; Matt Finders, Bobby Pring, Harvey Tibbs: trombones; James Chirillo: guitar; Dick Katz: piano; Lynn Seaton: bass; Dennis Mackrel: drums.


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