Bluebird / RCA continues its 100 year celebration with four new Centennial Collections. The two past packages focused on the works of Fats Waller and Glenn Miller; The new ones examine the recordings Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins and Duke Ellington made with Bluebird, RCA and its affiliates. In addition to including newly remastered sides of these four artists most beloved material, each collection contains a detailed essay about each artist, decent liner notes / credits (not as thorough as one would wish) and a DVD of various live concert events and interviews. Coleman Hawkins' Centennial Collection
kicks off with the inspiring 1939 recording of "Body and Soul and works through his standards among the twenty sides including "Just Friends," April in Paris" and "Wherever There's A Will, Baby." The nice tone to this collection is the focus on Coleman's various collaborations. This set features his work with renowned contemporaries Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson, Sonny Rollins, JJ Johnson, Fats Navarro, amongst others. Hawkins DVD contains performances from the 1950's television show "Jazz Party" with Lester Young on the song "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid" and material from a TV pilot that featured Hawkins. The notes were written by Dan Morganstern and offer tremendous insight and thought into these recordings and the credits / liner notes are very detailed. 2004 will also be Hawkins' one-hundredth birthday. Benny Goodman's Centennial Collection
contains material that has been reissued many times before this one, but if these recordings are not already in your collection, this should be the package that adds them. This CD includes "King Porter Stomp," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Sometimes I'm Happy," "Body and Soul" and seventeen other classic recordings. As with any Goodman reissue, the focus also falls to his incredible band that includes Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson and RCA's remastering helps highlights them superbly. Goodman's DVD contains thirteen performances (from 1939 through 1966) and an audio-only interview. The package contains a very good essay by David French and decent credits / liner notes that many times fail to list the sidemen from those sessions. Duke Ellington's Centennial Collection
begins with Ellington's recordings for Bluebird in 1927 and continues through his session dates in 1973. The thirteen centerpiece sides feature Ellington 'must have's' as "Mood Indigo," "Black and Tan Fantasy," and "Perdido." Also contained in this collection are seven previously unreleased cuts featuring "Are You Sticking?" and "Love Like This Can't Last." These recordings are culminated from a 1941 performance on the radio and features Ben Webster. Ellington's DVD is all short film performances and includes vocal performances by Billie Holiday and Herb Jeffries, along with an audio interview. The essay was written by Steven Lasker and the liners / credits are both very detailed and thorough. Artie Shaw's Centennial Collection
includes twenty recordings from his standard swing repertoire such as "Nightmare," "Begin the Beguine," "Star Dust" and "Frenesi." Each song shows why Shaw's career was so successful and the tone of each track that has been remastered adds more dimensions to the music. Material for Shaw's DVD comes from a 1939 movie short entitled "Class in Swing" and the film "Second Chorus", as well as an interview from 2001. The essay was written by Richard Sudhalter and is without a doubt the most in depth and informative in the series. The liners / credits lack many details such as a list of the performers that would make this collection whole.
This series serves as an excellent entry point for any of these artists or as a way to round out your collection. The essays all enhance the listening and collecting experience; the remastering adds extra tone and depth to some very old recordings and the DVD performance and interviews provide further entertainment and enjoyment from these four classic artists / bandleaders.