By the time the programs from which these air checks are taken were heard via the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, composer / arranger / bandleader / clarinetist Phil Nimmons was well–known in that country, having started his career with the CBC in the early 1940s and begun a twenty–year run of regular Jazz broadcasts in 1957. Even though the selections herein were transferred to disc from forty–year–and–older analog tapes, the over–all sound is remarkably clean, especially when compared to other air checks we’ve heard. Monaural of course, but that can’t be helped. What is perhaps most striking is the consistently high quality and inventiveness of Nimmons’s charts (he arranged everything and wrote all but three numbers — Goodbye,” “Too Late Now,” “Lush Life”).
Disc 1 is Nimmons all the way, opening with the brief but aptly named “I Love to Play” and encompassing nine more of his absorbing compositions. Nimmons always had a number of capable soloists in the band, and there are stylish features for guitarist Ed Bickert (“One Long Song”), trombonist Butch Watanabe (“Not Soon Enough”), bassist Murray Lauder (“Bass–ically Yours”), alto Jerry Toth and tenor Roy Smith (“Exactly Like Jerry Smith”), Bickert and Toth (“Twooch”) and Nimmons himself with accordionist Vic Centro (“Squits”).
Bickert, who later enjoyed a long and happy association with Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass (as did Nimmons alumni Toth and Rick Wilkins), is showcased again on Disc 2’s opening track, “Peaches and Brandy,” and with tenor Smith on the fast-moving “I Told You So,” Watanabe and Lauder on “Sku–Ba–Doo” and trumpeter Erich Traugott on the lovely ballad “Too Late Now.” Traugott has the spotlight to himself on Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” as do Smith on “The Getaway” and trombonist Teddy Roderman on Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye.” The bluesy closing theme, “Kicks,” featuring laid–back solos by Bickert, Toth and Smith, is also well–named.
For more than two decades Nimmons ‘N Nine (later Nimmons ‘N Nine Plus Six) was one of Canda’s busiest and most popular Jazz ensembles, and these radio broadcasts are a tangible signpost of that era. What’s even more important, however, is that the music is delightful and readily masters the test of time. It’s “vintage” all the way.
Phil Nimmons, leader, clarinet; Jerry Toth, Bernie Piltch, alto sax; Roy Smith, Rick Wilkins, tenor sax; Eddie Karam, Jack Taylor, baritone sax; Erich Traugott, trumpet; Ross Culley, Butch Watanabe, Teddy Roderman, trombone; Vic Centro, accordion; Ed Bickert, guitar; Murray Lauder, bass; Ron Scully, Archie Alleyne, Jack McQuade, drums.