Boyd Raeburn was not much of a musician and, although he played bass sax in his mid-1940's orchestra, he never soloed and could barely be heard in the ensembles. However the jazz world owes him a debt of gratitude because he not only allowed but encouraged such advanced arrangers as Eddie Finckel, Johnny Richards and particularly George Handy to let their imaginations run wild and not be concerned about selling records or pleasing dancers. Ironically Raeburn's earlier bands were quite conservative but by 1944 he started changing directions. At a time when the swing era was ending and jazz orchestras were breaking up, his big band was soon playing some of the most adventurous music around although it would involve quite a struggle to survive (which he lost by the end of the 1940's). This Hep CD features 22 selections from 1945-46 that were performed on radio broadcasts. The Boyd Raeburn Orchestra is captured at the height of its powers with such soloists as trumpeter Ray Linn, trombonist Ollie Wilson, the great tenor Lucky Thompson and pianist Dodo Marmarosa getting their share of solo space. A dozen of the charts are George Handy's including "Tonsillectomy," bizarre renditions of "Temptation" and "Body And Soul" and a four-part suite. Other highlights include a guest appearance by Dizzy Gillespie on "A Night In Tunisia," Mel Torme and the Mel-Tones being featured on "That's Where I Came In," a performance by Ray Linn's septet on "Caravan" that has an early flute solo by Harry Klee and two versions of "Boyd Meets Stravinsky." This is an essential set both for bebop collectors (although the harmonies are often beyond bop) and jazz historians. Boyd Raeburn's music still sounds exciting decades later.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow