|This month this column is focusing on three valuable CD reissue programs, all by British labels. While American record companies with just a
few exceptions (such as Mosaic and Rivermont) largely neglect reissues, vintage jazz and blues are treated with the respect and reverence that
they deserve by many overseas companies.
JAZZ GEMS FROM AVID
During the past decade, the Avid label (Avidgroup.co.uk) has had an extensive jazz reissue series that focuses mostly on the 1950s and early
‘60s. Their series of two-CD sets reissue the contents of three to five former Lps, usually led by a single musician and often including the
original liner notes. Sold at reasonable prices, the twofers give listeners an opportunity to quickly acquire a large batch of music from a
favorite artist at one time. To give an example, upcoming releases (usually there are around 5 a month) include sets on Gerry Mulligan, Chet
Baker, Red Garland and Don Ellis. In this article I am covering three recent reissues featuring top saxophonists.
Sidney Bechet’s Five Classic Albums Plus 3 – Second Set is filled with some of the great soprano-saxophonist’s most exciting recordings of the
1950s. Bechet (1897-1959) emerged as the first major jazz horn soloist on record in 1923, a few months before Louis Armstrong. A virtuoso on
both soprano-sax and clarinet, Bechet had a powerful tone that featured a wide vibrato, very impressive technique, and a love for dominating
ensembles. While he mostly stuck to New Orleans jazz throughout his career, he rarely played the predictable and was capable of stretching to
sophisticated swing standards.
After becoming a major hit in France in 1949 during a jazz festival, Bechet moved to Paris. While fairly obscure in the United States during
the decade before his death in 1959, in France he was so famous that he was considered not only a matinee idol but a national hero. The Avid
twofer features Bechet jamming many hot numbers with French bands led by clarinetists Claude Luter and Andre Reweliotty. Along with
some standards are such Bechet originals as “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (which was heard throughout Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris film), the
exciting “Dans les Rues d’Antibes,” “Ghost Of The Blues.” and his hit “Petite Fleur.” In addition to including five former studio Lps from 1952-
54, there are three Eps of material that Bechet wrote and performed in three French films in 1955.
While Bechet was an American who moved to Europe, tenor-saxophonist and flutist Bobby Jaspar (1926-63) was born and raised in Belgium
before spending an important part of his career playing in the U.S. Married to Blossom Dearie, Jaspar moved to New York in 1956 and his cool
tone was heard with a variety of top hard bop musicians before his premature death. Three Classic Albums Plus reissues sets recorded for
Barclay (Bobby Jaspar All-Stars), Riverside (Tenor & Flute) and Prestige (Interplay for 2 Trumpets & Tenors) during 1955-57. The All-Stars
set is with fellow Europeans, Tenor & Flute teams Jaspar with trumpeter Idrees Sulieman and pianist George Wallington in a quintet, and the
Interplay set finds Jaspar holding his own in an octet alongside John Coltrane including on the original version of Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes.”
Also included on this reissue are a four-song E.P. from 1957 with guitarist Sacha Distel, and the two songs from Chet Baker’s 1955 album I Get
Chet that showcase Jaspar.
Everybody loved James Moody (1925-2010), a brilliant and humorous tenor-saxophonist and flutist who was a major part of the jazz scene for
over 60 years. Four Classic Albums features him at the head of his regular septet during 1955-57 on albums made for Prestige (Wail, Moody,
Wail and Hi-Fi Party) and Argo (Flute ‘N The Blues and Moody’s Mood For Love). Eddie Jefferson takes five vocals along the way (including on
“Birdland Story,” ”Parker’s Mood” and “Moody’s Mood For Love”), Dave Burns or Johnny Coles are featured on trumpet, and highlights include
the 14-miinute “Wail, Moody, Wail,” “There Will Never Be Another You,” “Foolin’ The Blues” and “Stardust.” The Argo albums were
particularly rare before this typically excellent Avid reissue.
The Acrobat label (available from www.MVDshow.com) has been doing a superb job of reissuing essential blues performances from the 1950s.
Their series “The Complete Singles As & Bs” lives up to its name, compiling all of the 45s of major blues artists during a specific period of time.
Their Howlin’ Wolf set was previously reviewed in an earlier issue.
Muddy Waters, as a singer and a guitarist, modernized and electrified the blues. The Complete Aristocrat & Chess Singles 1946-62 is a four-CD
set that is quite definitive of Muddy Waters’ career. The original versions of “I Won’t Be Satisfied,” “Rollin’ & Tumblin,’” “I’m Your Hoochie
Coochie Man,” “Manish Boy,” “Got My Mojo Working,” “Tiger In Your Dark” and “I Just Want To Make Love To You” are best known, but
nearly all of the 98 selections are memorable in their own way. Strangely enough, Waters was discouraged from recording with a full band
until 1952 so the earliest recordings often feature him with a duet or a trio. But from 1952 on his sextet with Little Walter or Junior Wells on
harmonica, Jimmy Rogers, Hubert Sumlin or Pat Hare on guitar, and pianist Otis Spann virtually defined the Chicago blues sound of the
1950s and beyond.
Little Walter was one of the top graduates of the Muddy Waters school of blues although he continued recording with Waters after he began his
own solo career. His Complete Checker Singles 1952-60 has 51 performances on its two CDs. Little Walter, who had a big hit with his first solo
recording “Juke” (the only harmonica instrumental ever to become #1 on the R&B charts), often utilized Waters’ other sidemen on his records
along with such notables as guitarist Robert Lockwood Jr. and bassist Willie Dixon. He is considered the premiere blues harmonica player of the
1950s and, some would say, all time. This twofer shows why.
In a word association test, the name of Elmore James would always be followed by “Dust My Broom,” his signature piece. James, who is
showcased throughout the 54 selections on his two-CD set The Complete Singles 1951-62, never duplicated the commercial success of that
spontaneous performance but he recorded quite a bit of influential music that was later cited as an inspiration by many rock guitarists. James’
distinctive slide guitar sound (he was an electrical engineer who knew how to distort his tone) make these spirited recordings (which include
the intriguing title “Elmore’s Contribution To Jazz”) both a bit futuristic and primitive.
Still the most famous name in blues history, B.B. King is documented in a five-CD 123-selection set by Acrobat, The Complete Singles 1949-62.
The recordings, originally made for the Bullet, RPM and Kent labels, trace King’s evolution from the start of his career up until the time when
he was getting ready to sign with ABC-Paramount. Included are his first hit “3 O’Clock Blues,” “Everyday I Have The Blues,” “Dark Is The
Night,” “Early In The Morning,” “Sweet Sixteen” and even “Sixteen Tons” along with many lesser-known but generally rewarding
performances. B. B. King’s success would continue to grow over time, reaching a phenomenal level analogous to that of Louis Armstrong in
jazz. This valuable and well-conceived reissue shows how he sounded at the beginning.
TRAD JAZZ FROM LAKE
The British Trad Jazz movement of 1945-63 ran parallel to the American Dixieland Revival movement. The George Webb Dixielanders (who
can be thought of as the British equivalent of Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band) helped lead the revival in its early days and was followed by
Humphrey Lyttelton and Ken Colyer. Trad reached the height of its popularity with such groups as those led by Chris Barber (who is still
active), Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk. Those bands had hits that were on the pop charts before the rise of the Beatles and other rock groups pushed
the music back underground. The Lake label (www.fellside.com) has done an admirable job of reissuing a great deal of music from that era, not
only covering the prime years but the many excellent British classic jazz bands that have been active in the years since.
One of the many projects undertaken by the Lake label has been a series called British Traditional Jazz At A Tangent. It has now reached eight
volumes with each CD including music that fits a specific topic. When listening to the 175 selections, it is apparent that there were quite a few
very talented trad bands active in Great Britain during the era beyond the major names.
Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (both subtitled “Breaking The Mould”) are the most unusual CDs in the series for they feature trad groups playing
mainstream swing, blues and other styles of music that stretch beyond trad. Vol. 1 has rare performances by the Christie Brothers Stompers,
Keith Christie, Kenny Baker, the excellent soprano-saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith (who by the 1970s was playing fusion), a hot group led
by pianist Pat Hawes, Dave Carey, Bertie King and Tony Coe. Vol. 2 has Django Reinhardt-type music by Diz Disley’s String Quintet and Bob
Clark, bluesy jazz from Ken Colyer with Little Brother Montgomery (three charming performances) and Bruce Turner with Big Bill Broonzy,
skiffle by The Barnstormers Spasm Band, blues-oriented material from Alexis Korner, Sandy Brown and novelties by Chris Barber and the
The other six CDs are much more trad-oriented. Vol. 3 (Out Of The Limelight), which has nine performances released for the first time, focuses
on excellent groups that never got much publicity: The Graham Stewart Seven, Bobby Mickleburgh’s Bobcats, Mike Peters, the Famous
Southern Stompers, Eric Silk’s Southern Jazz Band and Duc Clews. Vol. 4 (The Territory Bands) has bands that played in Great Britain but
rarely in London: Ken Ingram’s Eagle Jazz Band, the Gateway Jazz Band, Bill Croft, Archie Semple, Mick Gill, the Zenith 6, the Back O’Town
Syncopators and the Avon Cities Jazz Band. Vol. 5 (Second Line) puts the spotlight on some of the trad bands that were fortunate enough to
sign with major labels: Mike Cotton, Alan Elsdon, Beryl Bryden, Gerry Brown, Forrie Cairns, Jim McHarg, and the Avon Cities Jazz Band. Vol.
6 (The Classic Style Bands) features Mike Daniels, Steve Lane, Colin Kingwell, the Dolphin Jazz Band, Ian Bell, the Original Down Town
Syncopators, and the Temperance Seven. Vol. 7 (The Chicago Dixieland Style Bands) has Carlo Krahmer’s Chicagoans, Archie Semple, Mark
White, Bobby Mickleburgh, Joe Daniels and Laurie Gold while Vol. 8 (the New Orleans Style Bands) features the Crane River Jazz Band, the
Christie Brothers, Monty Sunshine, Mike Peters, the Storyville Jazzmen, Ken Colyer, Pete Dyer and Keith Smith including nine previously
Classic jazz and Dixieland fans will find a great deal to discover, consume and enjoy in the British Traditional Jazz At a Tangent series and in
the huge and very valuable Lake catalog.