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Various: Hot Jazz on Blue Note

Mike Neely By

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Hot Jazz on Blue Note is a superb box set from the liner notes and photos to the choice of performances and the quality of the sound re-mastering. Jazz from the 1940’s is the focus, and New Orleans revival is mostly the style. A subtle touch of swing music is also in the mix throughout this long lineup of mostly blues and familiar New Orleans compositions.

Sidney Bechet, Wild Bill Davison, George Lewis, Art Hodes, Max Kaminsky, Albert Nicholas, Sidney De Paris, Bunk Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, James P. Johnson, Vic Dickenson, and a long list of other name musicians are part of the attraction. But the most continually satisfying aspect of this set is how well the musicians play together - the respect for each other and for the music that is conveyed by these performances. But there’s no shortage of outstanding soloists - not with this lineup of musicians.

The great Sidney Bechet is in fine form throughout these recordings playing soprano saxophone, and clarinet (on two tracks). Surrounded by first - rate musicians such as Davison, Dickenson, Hodes, Pops Foster, Manzie Johnson, and Walter Page, he is the featured solo attraction on 25 tracks. This is very good Bechet, vigorous and commanding.

Pianist Art Hodes shares the spotlight in this box set, being featured with his own bands on 21 tracks. He is also a sideman in many other performances, including many on Bechet’s finest. Art Hodes’ bluesy accompaniments and understated solos are a continual delight, the better the company, the better Hodes gets. The outstanding Max Kaminsky is Hodes’ trumpeter, playing a sharp, clear trumpet that often acts the foil to the low-key Hodes.

Charlie Christian makes an appearance with clarinetist Edmond Hall’s odd group the Celeste Quartet. On "Profoundly Blue No. 2" Christian plays a long, dreamy, blues solo that is a highlight of the box set. Soloist Edmond Hall is his usual excellent self. Other outstanding performers include Art Nicholas, with Baby Dodd’s Jazz Four, playing a long, poignant solo on Morton’s "Winin’ Boy Blues." Another is Sandy Williams’ long trombone solo on "Low Down Blues." Another is the Bechet/ Dickenson/De Paris romp on "Muskrat Ramble." Josh White opens up the first disc with a fine vocal performance on "Careless Love." I could go on and on with the details, but suffice it to say that this carefully chosen collection will not disappoint, and ultimately these performances add up to wonderful introduction to a whole world of jazz.

The 94 page booklet that accompanies the 4 discs ( four very long discs) is a model of how a box set booklet ought to be done. Dan Morgenstern deserves an award for his excellent track - by - track commentary on the music, and for his capsule biographies of the musicians. The high quality photos of the musicians are by Francis Wolff. The superb sound re-mastering was the work of Malcolm Addey. Ultimately, thanks should go out to not only to producers Michael Cuscuna and Bruce Talbot, but also to the collaboration between Blue Note/Capitol Records, the Lila Wallace - Reader’s Digest Fund, and the Smithsonian Institution. This box set is highly recommended - great jazz superbly presented.


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