[Dixielandjazz] Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington reviewed
rsr at ringwald.com
Sat Dec 8 07:50:26 PST 2012
by Howard Reich
Chicago Tribune, December 7, 2012
Bessie Smith: 'The Complete Columbia Recordings' (Columbia/Legacy; $79.98)
When Columbia/Legacy began reissuing Smith's recordings in boxed sets in the 1990s,
the releases unfolded over several years in a series of lavishly produced double-CD
packages. A great deal has changed in the record industry since then, and this time
the label has brought all the recordings into a smaller, more manageable 10-CD box.
Either way, Smith's magisterial instrument thunders, from the opening cuts of the
rough-and-tumble "Down Hearted Blues" and "Gulf Coast Blues" (both recorded in 1923)
to sleeker, more polished cuts, such as "Do Your Duty" (recorded in 1933), accompanied
by future jazz eminences, among them trombonist Jack Teagarden and tenor saxophonist
Louis Armstrong: 'The Okeh Columbia and RCA Victor Records -- 1925-1933' (Columbia/Legacy;
Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings, made when he was based in Chicago
during the mid-1920s, represent one of two templates for defining early jazz (the
other being Jelly Roll Morton's releases with his Red Hot Peppers). If Armstrong
never had recorded again or never had become a pop-culture icon, his position as
a codifier of the art of jazz improvisation would be undiminished. The latest reissue
of this music, like the aforementioned Bessie Smith box, is less gilded and more
compact than earlier releases. In addition, it stretches beyond those seminal recordings
with Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven ensembles to include his collaborations with
Earl Hines (in various contexts in Chicago), and Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
(in New York), spread across 10 CDs.
Duke Ellington: 'The Complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection -- 1951-1958' (Columbia/Legacy;
Ellington's centennial, in 1999, saw so many reissues of his music that one might
have thought the subject was closed. But this nine-CD set represents an accessible
way for listeners unfamiliar with Ellington's music to become acquainted with it
and an opportunity for connoisseurs to re-evaluate his often underappreciated work
of the 1950s. Albums such as "Masterpieces by Ellington" contain the hits audiences
around the world will recognize (such as "Mood Indigo" and "Solitude"), while "Such
Sweet Thunder" attests to Ellington's ambitions to craft larger scores and to the
profound contributions of his composing-arranging partner, Billy Strayhorn.
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