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Swingtime! / The Re-discovered Louis and Bix

C. Michael Bailey By

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Archiving with a Difference. The German label Nagel Heyer is beginning to make a name for itself by documenting that rococo period in jazz between traditional and big band swing. My introduction to the label was the Terrie Richards Alden vocal release Voice With Heart (Nagel Heyer 048). I said in that review that, "In the realm of jazz, vocalist Terrie Alden, with the support of the Warren Vaché's quartet, effects a historically informed performance of an inventive collection of standards, evoking the musical sounds of the 1920s and '30s.... That observation becomes a trend on Swingtime! and The Re-discovered Louis and Bix. Both releases bubble with good-time pre-swing music, impeccably executed and crisply captured in numbers.

The Little Big Band. Trumpeter and coronetist Warren Vaché assembles a crack little big band for a collection of standards that he all but redefines in his inventive arrangements. The center piece(s) of the disc are bold interpretations of "The Way You Look Tonight," "Stompin' at the Savoy," and "Jumpin' at the Woodside." These war-horses are thrillingly transformed into performances retaining only the briefest hint of the original arrangements. The result is a fun riddle, looking for the original melody among the transmogrified notes. If there is a down disc to this disc, it is the choice of the Jerry Jeff Walker tome, "Mr. Bojangles" as a jazz vehicle. This tune did not translate well, though the performance is very fine.

On Basic Principles. The concept behind The Re-discovered Louis and Bix is impresario George Avakian's assembly of hand-written lead sheets, song sketches, and previously unrecorded compositions by Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke. All included pieces are expertly arranged and performed by trumpeter Randy Sandke with a cast of the finest sidemen, including trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, pianist Dick Hyman, and clarinetist Ken Peplowski. The resulting music is vintage New Orleans/Chicago traditional jazz clearly captured. This disc is more than merely interesting; it represents composition discovery every bit as important as previously undiscovered Beethoven or Mozart. The music on both discs is lovingly performed without being stilted by hyper-reverence. I say "Hooray for Nagel-Heyer." The label has carved out a perfect niche.

Track Listing ( Swingtime! ):Swingtime!; From This Moment On; I've Got My Fingers Crossed; Mr. Bojangles; The Way You Look Tonight; Stompin' At The Savoy; B.D. Blues; Jumpin' At The Woodside; A Portrait Of Jenny; Ain't Misbehavin'; Saturday Night Fish Fry; When You're Smilin'; Let The Good Times Roll. (Total Time: 64:17)

Personnel ( Swingtime! ):Warren Vaché: Trumpet, Vocals; Randy Reinhart: Trumpet; John Alfred: Trombone; Matt Bilyk: Trombone: Chuck Wilson: Alto Saxophone And Clarinet; Harry Allen: Tenor Saxophone; Ricky Woodard: Tenor Saxophone; Alan Barnes: Baritone, Alto Saxphones, Clarinet; Steve Ash: Piano; Murray Wall: Bass; Jake Hanna: Drums.

Track Listing ( The Re-discovered Louis and Bix ):Papa, What Are You Trying To Do; When You Leave Me Alone To Pine; Drop The Sack; Weather Bird; The Jive Don't Come From Kokomo; Beyond A Shadow Of A Doubt; Mr. Jackson Form Jacksonville; Got What It Takes/I Need Your Kind Of Lovin'; No One Knows; Play It Red; Lily; Did You Mean It?; Betcha I Getcha; Cloudy; Stampede. (Total Time: 64:17)

Personnel ( The Re-discovered Louis and Bix ):Randy Sandke: Trumpet, Coronet; Jon-Erik Kellso, Nicholas Payton: Trumpets; Wycliffe Gordon, Dan Barrett: Trombone; Kenny Davern: Clarinet; Ken Peplowski: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Chuck Wilson: Alto Saxophone; Scott Robinson: Tenor, Bass, C-Melody Saxophones; Howard Alden, James Chirillo: Guitar, Banjo; Dick Hyman: Piano, Celeste; David Ostwald: Tuba; Peter Washington, Greg Cohen: Bass; Joe Ascione: Drums.

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