From an historical standpoint, it’s beneficial to have on compact disc this concert date by saxophonist Don Redman’s orchestra, recorded by Swiss Radio during a tour of Europe undertaken only one year after the end of World War II. Redman’s well–disciplined orchestra nimbly straddled the fence between two eras — swing and bop — and numbered in its ranks such acclaimed sidemen as Don Byas, Tyree Glenn, Quentin Jackson and a 25–year–old pianist named Billy Taylor. In other particulars the CD is rather less satisfactory with muffled and uneven sound throughout and some intrusive surface noise, presumably carried over from its original incarnation on vinyl. And there are times, as on “I Got Rhythm,” when the soloist (in this case Byas) is off–mic for a few bars before the recording engineer zeros in on him. Still, in terms of over–all sound, soloists fare better than the ensemble, as they reside more prominently in the foreground where they can at least be heard more clearly. It’s always good to be reminded of what a marvelous player Byas was (as we are on “How High the Moon” — which he also arranged — “Laura,” “I Got Rhythm” and “These Foolish Things”). There are eight charts by Redman (who takes no solos), two by Taylor (“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and “Tea for Two,” both of which showcase his piano) and one by Elton Hill (“My Melancholy Baby,” on which Glenn is featured on vibes, as he is on Redman’s treatment of “Limehouse Blues”). That could be either Glenn or Jackson soloing on the Gershwins’ “Embraceable You.” Two vocalists are listed, and each is heard once — Inez Cavanaugh on “Stormy Weather,” which also features the trombone section both playing and singing in unison, and trumpeter Peanuts Holland on his own composition, “Carry Me Blues.” Despite its sonic shortcomings, the recording provides a rare glimpse of one of the more prominent Jazz orchestras of its day, and as such is easily recommended to big–band aficionados.
Track listing: My Melancholy Baby; Limehouse Blues; Laura; How High the Moon; Carry Me Blues; I Got Rhythm; Stormy Weather; Alexander’s Ragtime Band; Tea for Two; Embraceable You; These Foolish Things; Stompin’ at the Savoy (58:05).
Don Redman, leader, alto sax; Bob Williams, Allan Jeffries, trumpet; Peanuts Holland, trumpet, vocals; Quentin Jackson, Jackie Carman, trombone; Tyree Glenn, trombone, vibes; Chauncey Houghton, Peter Clark, alto, baritone sax, clarinet; Don Byas, Ray Abrams, tenor sax; Billy Taylor, piano; Ted Sturgis, bass; Buford Oliver, drums; Inez Cavanaugh, vocals.