We’ve all heard of big–band Jazz that really cooks, but can the recipe call for music that is rare and also well done? Before dismissing the idea out of hand, consider this remarkable three–disc boxed set from Hindsight Records. The Jubilee Sessions,
recorded for radio broadcasts aimed primarily toward blacks serving in the Armed Forces during the World War II years (1943–46), not only provide a rare opportunity to hear some of the leading African–American Jazz ensembles of the mid–’40s, they are exceedingly well done in terms of recording quality, playing times, packaging, personnel listings (as comprehensive as possible) and, most important, the inclusion of selections by such vaguely remembered but no less capable orchestras as those led by Claude Hopkins, Wilbert Baranco, Jimmy Mundy, Tiny Bradshaw, Elmer Fain, Johnny Otis and Lucky Millinder, not to mention the all–female International Sweethearts of Rhythm. The better–known names are also here — Basie, Ellington, Lunceford, Billy Eckstine, Fletcher Henderson, Cootie Williams, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, Andy Kirk, Gerald Wilson, Earl “Fatha” Hines and Erskine Hawkins. The roster of soloists reads like a who’s who of the leading players of the ’40s, with such legendary masters as Wardell Gray, Lester Young, Max Roach, Al Killian, Snooky Young, Melba Liston, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Bud Powell, Sonny Stitt, Sammy Yates, Sid Catlett, Ace Harris, Big Nick Nicholas, Fats Navarro, Howard McGhee, Jimmy Forrest, Sir Charles Thompson, Milt Buckner, Johnny Griffin, Britt Woodman, Lucky Thompson, Buddy Collette, Trummy Young and Ray Nance among those heard from. Sideman who don’t have a chance to solo include such renowned artists as J.J. Johnson, Emmett Berry, Bennie Green, Dickie Wells, Buddy Tate, Freddie Green, Jo Jones, Gene Ammons, Budd Johnson, Leo Parker, John Malachi, Tommy Potter, Art Blakey, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Teddy Buckner, Juan Tizol, Henry Coker, Babe Rusin, Panama Francis, Arnett Cobb, Jimmy Nottingham, Charlie Fowlkes, Paul Quinichette, Curtis Counce, Charles Mingus, Benny Waters, George Duvivier, Rex Stewart, Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Sonny Greer and many others. As for the vocals, there are showcases for Eckstine (“Blowin’ the Blues Away,” “I Want to Talk About You”), Jimmy Rushing (“I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”), Lena Horne (“’Deed I Do”), Sarah Vaughan (“Don’t Blame Me”), Dinah Washington (“Million Dollar Smile,” “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”) and Betty Roché (“Hayfoot, Strawfoot”). Each band performs anywhere from two to five numbers, with program introductions by the effervescent Ernie “Bubbles” Whitman (whose jive–talking humor, overblown in retrospect, was perfect for the occasion). While several of these songs have since become classics (“Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “Air Mail Special,” “King Porter Stomp,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “Bugle Call Rag” and the closing theme, Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump,” for example), there are many gleaming gems that haven’t been heard for years but deserve their “second chance” via these recordings. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm (Disc 2) are especially persuasive, predating by half a century such contemporary ensembles as DIVA and Maiden Voyage with driving arrangements of “Blue Lou,” “Tuxedo Junction” and “Swing Shift.” The solos are by trumpeters Anna Mae Wilburn and “Tiny” Davis, baritone saxophonist Helen Saine, tenor Vi Burnside and drummer Pauline Braddy. They’re marvelous, but there’s not much on any of these discs (which are housed with their 20–page booklet in a plastic tray within a sturdy cardboard outer box) that is any less so, from Basie, Ellington and Lunceford to Baranco, Fain, Hopkins and the others. Many thanks and an appreciative tip of the fedora to Hindsight for making these historic air checks available on compact discs. The only news that could be more welcome would be to learn that they’re the first in a series.
Track listing: Disc 1 — Introduction; Sweet Georgia Brown; Habanera; Jubilee Jump; Introduction; Stompin’ at the Savoy; Scoops Carry Mary; Rosetta; The Honeydripper; Introduction; Stampede in G Minor; Bolero at the Savoy; Pick a Rib; Let’s Jump; I Found a New Baby; I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town; My! What a Fry!; Introduction; On the Alamo; Stardust; Frantic on the Atlantic; Introduction; Shower; The Bear Mash Blues; After Hours; Closing Theme: One O’Clock Jump (67:53). Disc 2 — Introduction; Blowin’ the Blues Away; ’Deed I Do; I Want to Talk About You; Don’t Blame Me; Introduction; Roll ’Em; Airmail Special; Introduction; It’s Sand, Man; Ready, Set, Jump; Introduction; Hello, Goodbye, Forget It; One O’Clock Boogie; Fiesta in Brass; Introduction; You’re Driving Me Crazy; King Porter Stomp; Introduction; Blue Lou; Tuxedo Junction; Swing Shift; Ida James; Let’s Have a Session; Let’s Hop; Introduction; Wednesday Night Hop; McGhee Special; Basin Street Blues! ; Peepin’ Through the Keyhole; Closing Theme: One O’Clock Jump (69:12). Disc 3 — Introduction; Three Bones; I Never Knew; I’ll Always Be in Love with You; Introduction; Hey–Ba–Ba–Re–Bop; Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?; K–Ration Hop; Million Dollar Smile; Flying Home #2; Introduction; J.T. Stomp; Introduction; Bugle Call Rag; Night and Day; The Baranco Boogie; Yesterdays; Hallelujah; Alone Together; Introduction; The Canteen Bounce; Hayfoot, Strawfoot; A Slip of the Lip; Closing Theme: One O’Clock Jump (68:22).