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Various Artists: Savoy On Central Avenue

Jim Santella By

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“Blip Blip” goes the swing music that strolled through the streets of Los Angeles during the Swing Era. This 2-CD compilation features poignant glimpses of what was happening on Central Avenue from 1941 to 1952. It was right after the end of World War II that L.A. experienced its big building boom and a revitalization of the jazz scene. Identical-looking cracker box houses were going up all over town, the Hollywood crowd had discovered L.A.’s jazz scene, and world-class artists were paying attention to what was happening so very far away from New York and Chicago.

Charlie Parker is represented with several overly familiar gems. Joe Turner, Jimmy Rushing, Red Norvo, and Erroll Garner were in town for recordings that had been released on the National, Excelsior, Discovery, and Savoy labels. Big band leaders Johnny Otis, Russell Jacquet, Ike Carpenter, Ben Pollack, and Roy Porter kept the swing spirit alive night after night. Nat King Cole, Slim Gaillard, Dexter Gordon and Harold Land packed houses time and again, inviting crowds from the other ends of the city to get acquainted.

Savoy’s Central Avenue compilation contains a few pleasant surprises. Dodo Marmarosa and Bam Brown join Gaillard on a fun-filled “Laguna,” which ushers in the bebop vocabulary. Red Norvo, Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus interpret another bebop classic, Denzil Best’s “Move,” with sizzling energy and a confident feel for what was happening around town. Eric Dolphy appears on “Gassin’ the Wig,” providing a soaring alto solo that rages up-tempo with Roy Porter’s big band on his heels. Mary Ann McCall interprets “You’re My Thrill” and “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You” with an exotic vocal character unlike that of any other swing singer.

Johnny Otis appears on nine tracks with a big band that pioneered directions in music, leading to a heightened nationwide popularity of rock and roll, rhythm & blues, swing, and much more. Singers Linda Hopkins, Little Esther, Mel Walker and Lee Graves help explain why Otis’s band was so popular. The Robins, a clarion, pop vocal group consisting of Ty Terrell, Billy Richards, Roy Richards and Bobby Nunn, joins the band for “The Turkey Hop, Part 2” with a little “Turkey in the Straw” humor tossed in.

Central Avenue in Los Angeles had a lot going on during the years represented here, and Savoy has captured a fair share of the action. This 2-CD compilation provides the listener and collector with a good, hearty look at what made Central Avenue tick.


Track Listing: On the Sunny Side of the Street; Long Tall Dexter; Should I; I Ain

Personnel: Nat King Cole- vocals, piano; Kay Starr, Jimmy Rushing, Little Esther, Mel Walker, Lee Graves, Numa Lee Davis, Linda Hopkins, Helen Humes, Joe Turner, Mary Ann McCall- vocals; Slim Gaillard- vocals, guitar; Bam Brown- bass, vocals; Johnny Otis- vibraphone, drums; Charlie Parker, Eric Dolphy, Marshall Royal- alto saxophone; Dexter Gordon, Harold Land, Lester Young, Maxwell Davis, James Von Streeter, Big Jay McNeely, Illinois Jacquet- tenor saxophone; Russell Jacquet- trumpet, vocal; Howard McGhee- trumpet; Pete Lewis, Tal Farlow- guitar; Charles Mingus- bass; Roy Porter, Lee Young- drums; Phil Moore, Erroll Garner, Hampton Hawes, Dodo Marmarosa, Dee Williams, Ike Carpenter- piano; Red Norvo- vibraphone; others.

Title: Savoy On Central Avenue | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Savoy Jazz

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