Gene Gifford's wistful, ethereal "Smoke Rings" was one of the great sentimental melodies of the 1930s. It served as the theme song for the collectively run Casa Loma Orchestra, a fine big band that enjoyed years of popularity under the nominal leadership of a saxophonist whose full name was Glen Gray Knoblaugh. Released in 2002, ASV/Living Era's Smoke Rings is a well-constructed sampler of 25 Glen Gray recordings dating from the years 1930-1943. In addition to swinging instrumentals (six of them penned by Gifford) there are vocals by Louis Armstrong, Lee Wiley, Hoagy Carmichael, Mildred Bailey, Pee Wee Hunt, Eugenie Baird, Kenny Sargent, and Clyde Burke. This collection compares favorably with similar efforts put out by EPM, Drive Archive, Old Bean, and Best of Jazz. While Hep's four-volume set outshines them all for thoroughness, Living Era's Smoke Rings accurately conveys everything that made this band so popular in its day: solid arrangements, singers both hot and sweet, and a repertoire stocked with enjoyable dance tunes and mood music.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf