The first half of this chronological release of Benny Goodman's 1931-1933 recordings is comprised of dance band performances from 1931 - 12 selections with vocals from Paul Small, Smith Ballew, and Dick Robertson that have little to recommend them except excellent musicianship. The jazz content is pretty low and even Goodman is not heard from much. This is from the era when the clarinetist earned his employment as a studio musician. The final ten numbers are from 1933 and are of greater interest. Trombonist/singer Jack Teagarden is well featured on six songs, Billie Holiday makes her hesitant recording debut on "Your Mother's Son-in-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch," and there are some fine solos along the way by both Jack and Charlie Teagarden, pianist Joe Sullivan, and Goodman. This is still Benny Goodman pre-history, for he would not attempt to lead a big band until 1934.
The first of three Don Redman Classics CDs consists of his orchestra's earliest sessions. Although Redman's big band never hit it as big as his former employers' (Fletcher Henderson and McKinney's Cotton Pickers), it was an impressive outfit, thanks to the leader's advanced arrangements. Among the key sidemen on these performances are trumpeters Red Allen (who is on the first two sessions) and Sidney DeParis, tenor saxophonist Robert Carroll, and pianist Horace Henderson. Highlights include "Chant of the Weed" (Redman's atmospheric theme song), "I Heard," "How'm I Doin'," and "Hot and Anxious." The main Don Redman CD to get.
Duke Ellington recorded for Brunswick from 1926 to 1931, the period in which his great talent and great orchestra first flowered, whether the band was recording under his own name or such pseudonyms as the Washingtonians or the Jungle Band. The earliest recordings are highlighted by the presence of trumpeter Bubber Miley and trombonist "Tricky Sam" Nanton, whose brilliant work with plunger mutes for vocal effects did much to define the early sound–which, in turn, rapidly evolved and expanded with the additions of Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, and Cootie Williams. While the band's repertoire included many blues and popular songs, its distinctive identity emerges from early renditions of such trademark pieces as "East St. Louis Toodle-O," "Black and Tan Fantasy," "The Mooche," and "Mood Indigo." By the end of the period covered in this set, Ellington's ambitious later suites–some of them CD-length–are portended in the elegant extended composition "Creole Rhapsody," his clearly superior contribution to the symphonic jazz movement.
The liner notes for Barry Guy's extended composition/improvisation Folio (a printer's term for a piece of paper folded in half to create four pages) refer extensively to Nikolai Evreinov's 1912 play The Theatre of the Soul, in which three aspects of the soul are introduced by a pretentious professor who claims the Self as Trinity: Rational, Emotional, and Eternal (or subconscious). Performed a scant five years before the Russian Revolution and simultaneously as Freud's big exposition of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego, the play is one of those moments where history seems to be suggesting bits and pieces of itself. What that all has to with Guy's piece is ponderous at best and known only to Guy. Even Brian Lynch's liner essay is speculative and academic.