Many of the discs in Bluebird's new reissue series focus on one specific artist, but all-star collections like this one give a more sweeping overview of an era and its musical heroes. If the listener can find some of the poor recording quality charming rather than limiting, these 14 tracks have a lot of great history to offer. The basic question is "What Is This Thing Called Swing?" Best to start the answer with a 1939 all-star band featuring Jack Teagarden, Eddie Miller, and Benny Goodman, as they blow up a storm on the buoyant "Blue Lou." The slightly more restrained, electric guitar-driven "One O'Clock Jump" is billed to the Metronome All-Stars, an outfit that includes Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Charlie Christian, and Coleman Hawkins. The piano mastery of Fats Waller comes alive on "Truckin'," while Duke Ellington's genius as an arranger is showcased on "Harlem Air Shaft." Other legends that this collection refuses to miss are Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, and Artie Shaw. Many of these tracks may seem obscure to the casual big-band fan, which is why the set closes with the ubiquitous, quintessential sounds of the era, from Benny Goodman ("Sing, Sing, Sing") and Glenn Miller ("In the Mood").
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran