Ron's Swing CD Reviews


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Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

 
Bill Haley & the Comets - The Millennium Collection (1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: *½, LL 
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Supposedly a disk jockey plucked the word's "Rock" and "Roll" from Haley's "Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie" in 1955 and helped give the new music a name.  Haley's time at the top didn't last long.  These hits were recorded 1954 to 1955.  His rock still swings.  It's interesting to compare his "Shake, Rattle & Roll" with  Joe Turners version, (found on the "Jumpin' Jive" compilation, for one) to try to figure out what "Rock and Roll" is.  Besides "Shake, Rattle, & Roll" (175 BPM), the best on this collection is "See You Later Alligator" (155 BPM), a really fun song to swing to. 
 
Dawn Hampton - Life is What You Make It (1999) 
Reviewed: 29 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **, L½ 
Recorded in 1975, this CD was unreleased until now.  In her 70's now, Dawn Hampton is a well-known swing dancer.  Her CD has some jazz covers, but it has mostly slow ballads and non-swing songs, with piano and other backup instruments.   I like the original "Life is What You Make It" (143 BPM). 
 
Lionel Hampton - 1942-1945 Flying Home (1990)
Reviewed: 24 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL½
Lionel Hampton's big band has a distinctive sound because of his playing of the vibraphone (xylophone-like). Mostly instrumentals here, typically a melody is established, then solo follows solo.  I'm not crazy about extended vibraphone solos.  This CD contains his great vocal classic "Hey! Ba Ba Re Bop" (140 BPM), but I also have it on the Jumpin Jive compilation CD.  Song tempos on this CD are very mixed, from 75 to 195 BPM, with a lot from 140 to 165 BPM. 
 
Lionel Hampton - The Legendary Decca Records Of (MCA/GRP - 1996) 
Reviewed: 8 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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This is a double-CD box set of the great songs he recorded for Decca from 1942 to 1950.  Compared to a best-of collection, like the one reviewed above, this collection has a few duplicates, of course, and some stuff that doesn't grab me, like a 15 minute version of "Stardust" and other uninspiring live versions.  Lots of the other songs have random, extended bop-style solos.  But it does have 130 minutes total of music and a number of choice songs not found elsewhere.  I really like the R&B style vocal songs: "Lavender Coffin" (132 BPM) and "Drinkin' Wine..." (132 BPM), so I had to buy this box set.  Wide range of tempos on this collection.  But there's too many slow songs and vibraphone-featured songs for me to really recommend this.
 
Lionel Hampton - Tempo and Swing (BMG - 1992) 
Reviewed: 12 Oct. 2002.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
I finally bought this out-of-print CD because it was repeatedly recommended to me.  It features Hampton's small-group work in the years 1939 and 1940.   The playing is exceptional, and if you like your swing on the fast side, there are some excellent fast tunes on here.  The sound quality is pretty good, perhaps because of the small-group format.  It features mostly continuous tempo songs, with few breaks.  The energy in some of these songs is great.
 
Gene Harris - Best of the Concord Years (Concord Records - 1988) 
Reviewed: 30 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: ****½, LLL
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If you like groovy jazz, this one's for you!  This is great stuff!  This double-CD collection is a great "best-of" set of Gene Harris.  Harris plays a mean piano.  Strong rhythms from his left hand balanced by sweet complexity coming from his right.  Not all jazz swings, but most of this stuff does.  In a big way.  Good mix of tempos.  Most of these songs are instrumentals.  These songs were recorded in the 80's and 90's, mostly live, and the sound fidelity is so high, you feel like you are right there with the audience.  Many of these songs are done by a small group with piano, bass, drums, and guitar.  Some with a bigger band and the horn playing is top-rate.  Songs are very long, averaging 6-7 minutes, and this hurt the Lindy rating, as did the lack of swing songs in the target range on the 2nd CD.  But this stuff is so good to listen to it almost hurts.   There are a few funk songs, and a few slow songs, including one incredible slow vocal blues: "Down Home Blues" (86 BPM) (6:58).  "Uptown Sop" (118-124 BPM) (8:14) is so totally groovy its unbelievable.  Great building rhythms, great solos, great breaks.  Blues.  Fine blues.  Ray Brown wrote it, and he is featured on bass on many of the songs.  "Blues for Sam Nassi" (126 BPM) (6:37) is also great.  Listen to the sax!  "Don't Be That Way" (165 BPM) (3:51) is also great.  And the buildup in "Summertime" (very slow to 125 BPM) (6:48) has to be heard to be believed.  I highly recommend this CD to anyone who likes modern, swinging, piano-based jazz. 
 
Gene Harris Jack McDuff - Down Home Blues (Concord Records - 1997) 
Reviewed: 28 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ****½, LL½
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I do love the blues, especially when played by master pianist Gene Harris. Brother Jack McDuff provides a groovy organ accompaniment.  Not all these songs are actual blues, some of the songs are jazz with a bluesy feel.  The songs are long.  Most are instrumentals.  I love the vocal "Stormy Monday" (124 BPM).  There's also a good long and groovy "Smack Dab in the Middle" (126 BPM), all 5:51 of it.
 
Gene Harris and the Three Sounds - Live At The It Club Vol. 2 (Capitol Records - 2000) 
Reviewed: 19 April 2002.  Ratings: ****, LL
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More great funky bluesy soul-jazz from Gene Harris, recorded live at the It Club in Hollywood in 1970.   Songs are long and the groove is everything.  "Black Fox" (114 BPM) is a good challenge for the groovy Lindy lovers.  The last three songs are cool versions of Beatles songs.  The drummer doesn't seem a good fit for Harris in some of the songs, in my opinion.  
 
Gene Harris and The Three Sounds - Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note Records - 2000) 
Reviewed: 17 August 2002.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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Excellent funky groovy jazz and bluesy piano jazz from Gene Harris and his band from 1967.  Harris' piano playing is typically playful and the songs build and ebb in their energy.  This collection has a wide variety of songs including ballads and non-swing songs.  There are funky rhythms, swinging rhythms and latin rhythms.  On some of the songs Harris plays organ.  I just love "I Held My Head In Shame" (106 BPM) and "Makin' Bread Again" (110 BPM). 
 
Loston Harris - Comes Love (Encoded Music - 1998) 
Reviewed: 17 May 2003.  Ratings: ****, LL
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Loston Harris plays piano and sings on some of the songs.  His voice sounds a little like Harry Connick Jr.   A sax joins the jazz trio on some of the songs.  I really enjoy this CD.  One song is suitable for dancing: "Comes Love" (128 BPM) and maybe "Close Your Eyes" (139 BPM).  I also really enjoy "Easy Listening Blues" (65 BPM).  Harris really hangs his notes way back on the beat sometimes, its cool. 
 
Wynonie Harris - Best Of: Bloodshot Eyes (Rhino - 1994)
Reviewed: 4 Sept.1999.  Ratings: **½, LLL
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Wynonie Harris is one of the classic jump blues shouters.  He has a distinctive style.  Originally recorded 1947 to 1954, you will recognize many of these songs from the modern covers by Indigo Swing, Blues Jumpers, etc.  His songs are filled with humor and double entendres.  Lots of allusions to alcohol, sex and women.   This is a good place to go if you liked the Risqué Rhythm collection, which features one of his songs, also here: "Keep on Churnin'" (145 BPM). Lyrics like: "..keep on churnin' til the butter comes, keep on pumpin', make the butter flow, wipe off the batter and churn some more.."  Most of the song tempos are perfect: 140 to 160 BPM.  
 
Wynonie Harris - Women, Whiskey & Fishtails (1993)
Reviewed: 4 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: **, LL
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This collection focuses on Wynonie Harris later recordings after he stopped having hits.  These songs, recorded 1953 to 1957, don't have the raunchy lyrics of his earlier songs.  Only a couple of the songs on this collection are also on the Best Of collection. Mostly 12-bar blues songs here.  There are a couple of songs that make this collection worth buying if you already have the other one and you want more Wynonie: "Bring It Back" (135 BPM) and "Man's Best Friend" (125 BPM). 
 
Wynonie Harris - Lovin Machine (King - 2002) 
Reviewed: 2 Nov. 2002.  Ratings: *½, L½
Songs were recorded 1951 to 1957.   There's nothing here that's very interesting.  Bloodshot Eyes is definitely the collection to get.
 
Bill Henderson - With the Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve - 1989) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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With the excellent backing of pianist Oscar Peterson, Bill Henderson here demonstrates a mastery of understated vocal jazz. Never as famous as other male jazz vocalists, he still swings with the best of them.  I really like two of his short 2 1/2 minute songs here: "I See Your Face Before Me" (130 BPM) and "At Long Last Love" (130 BPM).  Unfortunately, too many of these songs are slow ballads: 7 of 16.  
 
Woody Herman - Jazz Masters 54 (Verve - 1996) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LL 
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This CD contains highlights from CDs recorded during this big band's hot years in the mid 1960's.  The band is very tight and every instrument sounds excellent.  This isn't for people who like their swing served up traditionally.  This is bop, and many of the songs take off in unexpected ways. Whether its a weird break, or a tempo change, you never know what you'll get next.  "Cousins" (139 BPM) has enough of a steady groove to dance to.  Overall, this has an excellent modern big-band sound.  I love how many of the songs have long building crescendos.
 
Woody Herman - Vol. 1 (1938/1945) (The Band That Plays the Blues, the First Herd) (Jazz Archives - 1996) 
Reviewed: 3 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LLL
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This import is a great compilation of many of Woody Herman's best songs from 1938 to 1945.  Two favorites of mine, "Woodchoppers Ball" (176 BPM) and "Four or Five Times" (140 BPM) are both included.  There is a whole host of excellent high-tempo, high-energy danceable songs on this collection (if you like to dance fast).  Songs like "Ten Days Furlough" (201 BPM), and others with tempos ranging from 188 BPM up to 280 BPM.  But I also like the slower songs like "Who Dat Up Dere?" (127 BPM) and "Perdido" (136 BPM).  This is bouncy big-band swing at its best.  A few of the songs are vocals.  Sound quality is as poor as expected for 1938-1945 recordings. 
 
Johnny Hodges - Passion Flower 1940-1946 (Bluebird - 1995) 
Reviewed: 18 April 2000.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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This CD compiles songs featuring Johnny Hodges, from both small group and big band work from '40 to '46.  He's joined by Ellington, Cootie Williams, Jimmie Blanton, Barney Bigard, Ben Webster and various other jazz luminaries in various combinations.  Hodges' saxophone solos are fantastic, whether he's caressing the notes in a ballad, or driving one of the fast swing songs.  Hodges has a great sense of dynamics, and amazing control over the sound of his sax, as he slides into his notes from below, pulling every ounce of feeling he can from them.  Sound quality isn't bad, considering the years the songs were recorded.  Good songs to Lindy to are "Good Queen Bess" (158 BPM), and "In a Mellotone" (126 BPM).  I just love Cootie Williams' solo in "That's The Blues Old Man" (89 BPM).  Tempos of the 22 songs range from very slow to 352 BPM!  There are a lot of slow ballads.
 
Johnny Hodges - Verve Jazz Masters 35 (Verve - 1994) 
Reviewed: 24 May 2002.  Ratings: ****½, LL½
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Johnny Hodges was a master of the saxophone.  His tone is so melodic and pure and expressive.  These songs were mostly recorded in the late 50's and 60's.  I particularly like "Castle Rock" (172 BPM) and "Duke's In Bed" (175 BPM).  Although Hodges is well-known for his ballads, I like his slow blues like "Little Rabbit Blues" (86 BPM). They are long, but are great. There's a lot of relentlessly swinging slow blues here.  
 
Johnny Hodges - Everybody Loves (MCA - 1992) 
Reviewed: 24 May 2002.  Ratings: ****½, LL
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Recorded in 1964, this is one of Hodges best-known albums.  He is again joined with Ellington band members to make beautifully swinging music.  He re-interprets some classic Ellington tunes beautifully.  I like "310 Blues" (164 BPM) and this slower version of "Good Queen Bess" (143 BPM).
 
Johnny Hodges - Hodge Podge (Definitive Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 12 August 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL
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This recording gathers some of Hodge's small group recordings from 1938 and 1939 which "established and consolidated a 'chamber' style of jazz", as the liner notes put it.  The songs don't grab me as much as his later work.
 
Red Holloway - Legends of Acid Jazz (Prestige - 1998) 
Reviewed: 3 Nov. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL
Tenor saxophonist Red Holloway is featured on this CD that is a reissue of two of his CDs from the mid-60's, The Burner and Red Soul.  I'm not sure why this is called Acid Jazz, or how you define Acid Jazz, but my definition might mention heavy use of the organ.  And heavy organ use is noted on virtually every song. Most of these songs were written by Holloway or guitarist George Benson.  Holloway sure blows some incredible saxophone solos.  Lots of different rhythms on this CD.  
 
Richard "Groove" Holmes - Blues All Day Long (32Jazz - 1999) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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His nickname says it all.  Not all of these songs swing (4 of 7 do), but they all groove.  What makes these songs "groovy"?  I'm not sure.  It might be the lower tempos.  It might be the instruments.  Holmes plays organ, and a lot of his playing just kinda oozes.   A jazz guitar played by Jimmy Ponder is very much in evidence, and a guitar always seems to add a mellow, groovy vibe to the music.  Houston Person on Tenor Saxophone kicks ass.  Bass, drums and a trumpet complete the band.  The non-swing version of "Killer Joe" is pretty cool.  The swing song "Groove's Groove" (144 BPM), and the blues "Slo Blooze" (71 BPM) are my favorites.  Lots of cool longs solos.  I haven't found many organ-based artists that I like, but now that I've found Richard "Groove" Holmes, I'm now a believer in the groovy organ. Its not cheesy, its cool. 
 
Shirley Horn - Light Out of Darkness (Verve - 1993) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
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Her voice shows her age, but she can still sing some good jazz vocal songs.  Here she's singing a tribute to Ray Charles.  She sings in a unadorned style that I appreciate.  She's backed by a small, but swinging jazz combo that includes guitar and sax.  Too many of the songs are slow ballads for my taste.  I really like "Hit the Road, Jack" (147 BPM). 
 
The Hotfoot Club - Don't Ever Say Goodbye (1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Dec. 1999.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½ 
From Ithaca, NY, this is a true dancer's band.   The CD comes complete with pictures of two-toned dancing shoes on the cover, and song BPMs on the back.  Wow! A band that caters to dancers!  The songs are mostly covers, some well-known, some not, and all feature good swinging rhythms, good breaks, and a good variety of music styles and tempos.  Some of the songs are vocals, some instrumentals, and many feature an excellent mellow-sounding clarinet.  A mellow, jazzy, small-group feel to this band.  The vocals are the band's only weak point, often sounding a little weak and off-key.  But the instrumentals are excellent, from the jazz guitar, to the piano, to the clarinet or sax.  One effortless-sounding, jazzy solo after another, each fitting the songs well.  Appropriate, restrained drumming.  Lots of really good songs to dance to on here. Of the 15 songs, nine are 124 to 144 BPM, four are 172 to 210 BPM, and 2 slow songs.  Three are non-swing songs.  (Also see 1st album, listed under Dave Davies.)  
 
Hula Joe & The Hutjumpers - Hula Joe & The Hutjumpers (Black & Tan Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 17 August 2002.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
This is actually well-done modern pop swing.  This Hawaiian band is definitely a level above the average neo-swing band.  The playing is tight, the vocals decent to good, the songs are decent originals, and there's a good variety of songs and tempos.  The songs are influenced by Hawaiian music and there's heavy use of the steel slide guitar. There's a fairly high cheese factor.  I like "Grasshackin'" (132 BPM), "Swingin' With Duke" (168 BPM) and "Boiled Peanuts" (158 BPM).  For CD ordering information, see www.hutjumpers.com.
 
Helen Humes - Songs I Like to Sing (Contemporary - 1988) 
Reviewed: 9 Sept. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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Only 42 minutes of music on this disk recorded in 1960.  Helen Humes sounds a little like an early Ella Fitzgerald, slightly girlish.   She's got a great voice--dead on key, expressive, swinging--I'm not sure why she isn't more famous.  I like "I Want A Roof Over My Head" (155 BPM).  And I love her "Million Dollar Secret" (103 BPM).  The songs and arrangements are somewhat lightweight.
 
Alberta Hunter - Amtrak Blues  (1980) 
Reviewed: 20 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
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Picture your grandma singin' and swingin' while you dance.  Wouldn't that be cool?  Well, this album is the next best thing.  She may not have had a lot of power or range left when this was recorded, but she still did it right.  And her backup band is real tight. The slow blues songs are OK, but "Sweet Georgia Brown" (131 BPM) is my favorite.  "I'm Having a Good Time" (113 BPM), and "Darktown Strutter's Ball" (89/154 BPM) are also good.
 
Dick Hyman - From the Age of Swing (Reference Recordings - 1994) 
Reviewed: 12 April 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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Good classic swing sound from piano player Hyman and backup band.  The sound is sparse, but tight.  Steady rhythm section keeps the music seriously swinging, but in a very mellow way.  There's nothing that seriously catches my ear here, and I'm not much of a reviewer because I can't describe why.  The sound quality is excellent, with an echo, or large stage effect that I can't decide if I like or not.  
 

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