Jazz musicians of any renown will eventually tour and record in Japan, but Midge Williams must be the only American artist whose recording career actually began there. She recorded in both Japanese and English in the '30s, working with local groups in China as well as Japan - all signs of the accomplished versatility that would later make her in demand with great jazz bandleaders such as Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, and Teddy Wilson. This singer was not always content to be a vocalist in someone else's band, no matter how big their names were, so she also fronted her own group known as Midge Williams & Her Jazz Jesters.
This CD from the European Classics label has the entire recorded legacy of the Three Peppers (other than obscure sets in 1947 and 1949), 24 selections in all from six recording sessions. Consisting of Oliver "Toy" Wilson on piano, guitarist Bob Bell and bassist Walter Williams, the Three Peppers (which had Wilson, Bell and maybe Williams indulging in group vocals) preceded the Nat King Cole Trio and played hot swing and novelties with plenty of spirit. This CD includes a previously unreleased recording of "The Sheik of Araby" and is highlighted by such tunes as "Swingin' at the Cotton Club," "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" (one of four numbers with singer Sally Gooding, trumpet, clarinet and drums added), two versions of "Swing Out, Uncle Wilson" and "Pepperism." Recommended for lovers of small-group swing.
The basic and pleasing vocals of Maxine Sullivan are quite enjoyable. This CD has her first 23 recordings, including three songs originally released under pianist Claude Thornhill's name; Thornhill (who helped discover the singer) is on all of the selections. The original version of "Loch Lomond" is among the highlights and became a huge hit, leading to Sullivan's lightly swinging renditions of other folk songs such as "Darling Nellie Gray" and "Dark Eyes." Joined by such fine musicians as trumpeters Manny Klein, Frank Newton, Charlie Shavers and Bobby Hackett (all of whom are heard from briefly), along with the future members of the John Kirby Sextet, Maxine Sullivan is heard throughout in her early prime (she was 26-27 years old during this period).