November 2001


The Bluebird Jazz series releases not only new recordings from today's artists, but also those of historic importance from RCA vaults. The 4 CD's below fall into the latter category.

Bing Crosby/Rosemary Clooney - "Fancy Meeting You Here"

RealAudio Sample

Pairing a seasoned veteran like Crosby with a young rising star like Clooney, especially since they were already close friends, seemed a sure winner to songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen who suggested to the RCA people that they make an album thematically based on "…a vocal tour of the world". Their infectious handling of the romance to travel and the commonality in sprucing things up with "…inventive intros, verses and tags" would capture the "tangible chemistry" between them. Such is the result on the 13 numbers they share (recorded 1958) with conductor Billy May setting the musical background to "On a Slow Boat to China", "It Happened in Monterey", or "Isle of Capri". The disc is augmented by 2 humorous tunes with Clooney and Bob Hope, and 4 previously unissued numbers by Crosby/Jo Stafford from NBC broadcasts (both 1959). JS

Bluebird 09026-63859-2

Artie Shaw - "Self Portrait"

RealAudio Sample

Throughout the many reshaping of his bands, even at the height of their popularity, Shaw reiterated his desire to quit the music business and "...retire to some bucolic setting and develop skills as a writer". But each successive aggregation arose like the phoenix to face new standards and challenges from the leader who "…alone determined the overall design of his bands". Selections here are taken from the RCA vaults, broadcasts, the Musicraft label, and masters by special arrangement with Shaw, and offer a sampling of the various groups from 1937 to 1954. Defying the colour ban by including such vocalists/soloists as Leo Watson, Billie Holiday, Hot Lips Page, and Roy Eldridge, Shaw continued undeterred to seek out those performers who could best serve his pursuit of musical perfection. JS

Bluebird 09026-63845-2

Glenn Miller - "Army Air Force Band"

RealAudio Sample

On December 15, 1944, Captain Glenn Miller set out for Paris in a small aircraft in order to arrange accommodation there for his band. He never arrived. Under the leadership of Ray McKinley and Jerry Gray, the orchestra held together until late 1945. It is the period from July, 1943 to April, 1944 that is highlighted on the 14 tracks here, all carefully re-mastered from original transfers. The recordings are taken from broadcasts for distribution to the Armed Forces shortly before the band left for Europe. Composed of top musicians, the quality of performances was outstanding, with many of the tunes old familiar favourites - "In the Mood", "A String of Pearls", "Tuxedo Junction", "Juke Box Saturday Night", "Moonlight Serenade". Catch the rousing version of "The St. Louis Blues March"! JS

Bluebird 09026-63857-2

Louis Armstrong - "Sugar"

RealAudio Sample

The 16 numbers from Armstrong material, originally issued on LP but re-released here as digital transfers, include excellent historic notes to the various recording dates, adapted from comments by Dan Morgenstern. Earlier selections (1930-1933) reveal the trumpeter at the height of his creative genius, though orchestral support was often not a regular working group of his own choosing. As well, the 1930 date, with country singer Jimmie Rodgers "Blue Yodel No 9", did not even list his name on the label. Prior to the first recordings with his All Stars (1947), Louis was part of Leonard Feather's Esquire All-American Award Winners (1946) and sessions with more familiar players with his Hot Seven and Dixieland Seven, samples of which are on this CD. JS

Bluebird 09026-63851-2

Louis Armstrong - "Pure Louis"

As the liner notes observe, "...both on record and on the stage, his music had a singular intent: to spread pure joy to the listeners, to make them swing and tap their feet." The 28 sides on these 2 CD's, spanning an extensive period from 1937 to 1968, certainly reflect that observation. Though his recognizably earthy trumpet is omnipresent, Armstrong the vocalist and entertainer are featured here. With his own orchestra in the 30's, he offers 4 numbers from a lively "Jeepers Creepers" to the traditional strains of "When the Saints go Marchin' In". His All Star aggregations form the background for sessions from 1947 on, giving support to "King of the Zulus" (1957), "C'est Si Bon" (1955), or "Basin Street Blues" (1955). Then there is the magic of the Ella/Louis pairings "Summertime"/"Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You"/"Stars Fell on Alabama", vocal duets with Billie Holiday (1949) or Louis Jordan (1950), and delightful concert performances with Velma Middleton (1951/1955). The 60's give us show tunes "Hello Dolly"/"Cabaret", as well as Louis' romantic phrasing to "What A Wonderful World" and "Dream" a Little Dream". A good cross-section of Armstrong in a variety of contexts. JS

Verve 0881 126652

Previous Picks