GIANTS OF SMALL-BAND SWING (VOLUME 1)
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
Billy Kyle’s Big Eight (Side 1, #1 and 2):
Dick Vance (tp) Trummy Young (tb) Buster Bailey (cl) Lem Davis (as) John Hardee (ts) Billy Kyle (p) John Simmons (b) Buddy rich (drs) New York; Fall, 1946
Russell Procope’s Big six (Side 1, #3 and 4; Side 2, #3 and 4):
Harold Baker (tp) Russell Procope (as) John Hardee (ts) Billy Kyle (p) John Simmons (b) Denzil Best (drs)
New York; Fall, 1946
Sandy William’s Big Eight (Side 1, #5 and 6):
Pee-Wee Irwin (tp) Sandy Williams (tb) Tab Smith (as) Cecil Scott (ts, brs) Jimmy Jones (p) Brick Fleagle (g) Sid Weiss (b) Denzil Best (drs) New York; Spring, 1946
Dicky Well’s Big Seven (Side 2, #1 and 2):
George Treadwell (tp) Dicky Wells (tb) Bud Johnson (ts) Cecil Scott (brs) Jimmy Jones (p) Al McKibbon (b) Jimmy Crawford (drs) New York; Spring, 1946
Jimmy Jone’s Big Four (Side 2, #5 and 6):
Bud Johnson (ts) Jimmy Jones (p) Al Hall (b) Denzil Best (drs) New York; Fall, 1946
H.R.S. Bounce (2:59)
Contemporary Blues (2:55)
Four Wheel Drive (2:52)
Bottle It (2:51)
Tea for Me (3:03)
Sandy’s Blues (3:06)
Drag Nasty (The Walk) (2:48)
Opera in Blue (2:58)
Right Foot Then Left Foot (2:57)
Denzil’s Best (2:38)
Strollin’ Easy (3:05)
With the passage of the years, it has become much easier to look back on the small-band jazz of the late 1930s and early ‘4-s with a proper perspective. In the past, this particular segment of the Swing Era was downgraded with equal fervor by both extreme partisans of traditional jazz (who called it a betrayal of the values of early jazz) and rabid modernists (who found it a stagnant banality against which the founders of modern jazz were forced to revolt). That there was more beat than light in such arguments, and more axe-grinding than objective judgment, is by now rather obvious. Small-band Swing was actually a self-contained and definable form, and its own sound: usually high-spirited and highly-enjoyable.
There is of course considerable distinction to be made between this small-group music and the considerably more publicized and flamboyantly popular efforts of the big orchestras of the Swing Era. Specifically, recordings such as those that make up this reissue album (and a second volume of similar material – RLP 145) were rarely the work of organized units. They were almost always casual pick-up dates involving men who had (usually) mutually compatible approaches to jazz, a good deal of experience playing together in jam sessions, on other such record dates, or even in the big bands where so many of them were regularly employed.
With very few exceptions, there were no consistently functioning small bands; this was an era in which the large orchestra was the rule. (On the other hand, one notable exception to the rule, the very successful John Kirby Sextet, was the long-time home base for three men heard in this collection: Kyle, Procope and Bailey.) Thus the small band date was in a very important sense a release, an opportunity for comparative freedom and soloing room, a contrast to the tight discipline of highly organized ‘section’ work. At the same time, however, it was true that long big-band experience had definitely left its musical mark on many of these men. For example, Dicky Wells was long associated with Basie; Trummy Young and Jimmy Crawford with Lunceford; Harold Baker with Ellington; Bud Johnson with Earl Hines; Buddy Rich with Tommy Dorsey, and so on. Not surprisingly, then, there is generally an aura of section-work in the ensembles, and those opening choruses are definitely arranged (even though it may have been just a matter of “heads” worked up in the recording studio). It is a superimposing of a certain amount of such discipline upon a two-ply looseness (both the inevitable looseness of the pick-up record ate and the relaxation of big-bandsmen operating in smaller settings).
It should also be noted that these selections were recorded in the immediate post-war period; and while few of the participants could have been too aware of it, these were among the very last products of the Swing Era. It would be a mistake, however, to put much emphasis on the fact that these rhythm sections include a few names that by now would look more at hoe in modern-jazz listings. The rhythm here is strictly Swing: the melange of names – some of the more important names of the period, others who never achieved more than passing, secondly attention, some who today are modernists and others who now play Dixieland – is strictly a typical mixture of the period. In these various combinations these varied musicians produce an almost improbably (under the circumstances) cohesive, “mainstream,” swinging jazz that is both thoroughly unpretentious and lastingly pleasurable listening.
All of these selections were originally issued on the H.R.S. label.
As additions to the Riverside “Jazz Archives” series, they form part of a panorama of the history and development of recorded jazz that begins with the earliest efforts of artists like Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke, Fats Waller and many others available on Riverside re-issue albums, thus continuing this jazz story through the Swing Era.
Other LPs derived from the H.R.S. catalogue include –
JACK TEAGARDEN / PEE WEEL RUSSELL (RLP 12-141)
The Classic Horn of REX STEWART (RLP 12-144)
GIANTS of Small-Band SWING; Volume 2 (RLP 12-145)
Notes by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF, back-liner photos by ROBERT PARENT
Re-mastered, 1960, by JACK MATHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.