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Billy Eckstine: The Legendary Big Band

Jim Santella By

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Billy Eckstine: The Legendary Big Band Legends have brought us to where we are today in modern music. When the classic sounds from 1944-1947 echo through the room, we recall innovators such as Billy Eckstine, who helped shape the second half of a century of jazz. Through the big bands of Earl Hines, Eckstine, and Dizzy Gillespie passed a significant number of bebop pioneers with their creative ideas and powerful resources. This 2-CD set includes material from both the National and DeLuxe labels. Eckstine’s crooning was exceptional, and he never failed to impress. While most of this collection features his smooth, baritone voice interpreting lyrics, the performances also include a few surprises.

Sarah Vaughan’s presence, through one emotional ballad, has a major impact. Eckstine scat sings “Rhythm in a Riff” with a light delivery that leaves you wishing there were more. In a memorable moment from “Blowing the Blues Away,” Eckstine’s lyric relates, “Blow Mr. Gene, blow Mr. Dexter too; and he’s followed by their battling tenors in a remarkable display. The band’s soloists, most of whom are identified along with their contributions, include Oscar Pettiford, Dizzy Gillespie, John Malachi, Art Blakey, Fats Navarro and Wardell Gray. “Opus X,” “Cool Breeze” and “Second Balcony Jump” are instrumental arrangements that delineate the developments bebop was then undergoing. The crazy, call & response, wordless vocals of “Oop Bop Sh’bam” by Eckstine and his band provide keen exhilaration. It’s the same kind of excitement that followed Diz and Bird throughout their careers. The leader even provides a sensational valve trombone interlude. Through these recording sessions, Eckstine proved eclectic, mixing the new bebop together with sultry ballads such as “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “A Cottage For Sale” and “Prisoner Of Love.”

The twenty-page booklet that accompanies this set includes a complete session discography, informative notes by Bob Blumenthal, and timeless black & white photos. Recommended, this collection covers a lot of territory – from a sizzling big band that even includes Miles Davis in the screeching trumpet section, to a smaller nonet format with all-star quality.

Track Listing: I Got A Date With Rhythm; I Stay in the Mood For You; Good Jelly Blues; It That

Personnel: Billy Eckstine- vocal, valve trombone; Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Webster, Shorty McConnell, Boonie Hazel, Gail Brockman, Ray Linn, Al Killian, Kenny Dorham, Raymond Orr, Miles Davis, Hobart Dotson, Leonard Hawkins, King Kolax, Fats Navarro- trumpet; Trummy Young, Claude Jones, Walter Knox, Howard Scott, Jerry Valentine, Taswell Baird, Chips Outcalt- trombone; Norris Turney, Junior Williams, Budd Johnson, Jimmy Powell, John Cobbs, John Jackson, Billy Frazier, Sonny Criss, Sonny Stitt- alto saxophone; Wardell Gray, Arthur Simmons, Josh Jackson, Thomas Crump, Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons- tenor saxophone; Cecil Payne, Rudy Rutherford, Teddy Cypron, Tate Houston, Leo Parker- baritone saxophone; Linton Garner, Clyde Hart, Richard Ellington, Warren Bracken, John Malachi- piano; Connie Wainwright- guitar; Oscar Pettiford, Bill McMahon, Shifty Henry, Tommy Potter- bass; Shadow Wilson, Art Blakey, Tim Kennedy- drums; Sarah Vaughan- vocal on

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Savoy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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