This single CD collects Bunk Johnson's sessions for Decca and Victor plus his two V-discs and eight alternate takes, three of which were previously unissued. Bunk is heard throughout in prime form, and his band -- clarinetist George Lewis, trombonist Jim Robinson, pianist Alton Purnell, banjoist Lawrence Marrero, bassist Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau, and drummer Baby Dodds (without Dodds, this would become the Lewis group of the 1950s) -- is mostly in tune and swinging hard. Johnson and Lewis never sounded better together, and unlike some of the earlier American Music performances, the recording quality here is mostly quite good despite a faulty piano. For the two V-discs (versions of "I Can't Escape From You" and "Snag It" that exceed five minutes), Bunk's band (with Red Jones on drums) is heard live from the Stuyvesant Casino. Among the highlights of the high-quality New Orleans Dixieland set, which was put out by Document in 1996 (much of the music had formerly been on an Arhoolie LP), are spirited renditions of "Maryland, My Maryland," an up-tempo "A Closer Walk With Thee," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and "Darktown Strutters Ball."
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow