Even as the Joe Venuti/Eddie Lang instrumentals from the late '20s are worth their weight in gold, more than half of the fun in listening to an overview of this section of their complete recorded works is derivable from the often silly vocalists. Pianist Rube Bloom had a charmingly wobbly voice, preferable perhaps to the too-perfect, painfully innocent, but nevertheless endearing efforts of Smith Ballew. "Sensation," in addition to proving that Jimmy Dorsey could play the hell out of the baritone sax, contains Bloom's wildest vocal, consisting of bursts of scat singing mingled with dramatic moans and pleas for medical/musical assistance in what was apparently intended as a steamy sequel to "Hello Central Give Me Doctor Jazz." The delightful wordless vocal on the marvelous "I Must Have That Man" has often been attributed to Venuti himself. This CD's discography assigns it to drummer Chauncey Morehouse. Everyone agrees that the tuba solo is by the mighty Joe Tarto. Scrappy Lambert squeezes out two hilariously enigmatic love songs, "I Am Only Human After All" and "Out of Breath and Scared to Death of You." The last three tracks on this volume of the Classics Joe Venuti chronology are not so well known, probably because of the comparatively glib vocalists. Back to the instrumentals -- there are only five, but each one is a masterpiece. A 1928 remake of "Doin' Things," recorded with a smaller group the previous year, is refreshing. "Runnin' Ragged," recorded in October of 1929, features Frankie Trumbauer on bassoon. The idyllic "Apple Blossoms," a collectively composed serenade, is a study in perfect peace. Adrian Rollini, armed with bass sax, goofus, and hot fountain pen, enlivened the next Blue Four session, which took place during the spring of the following year. The musicianship on this collection is often astonishing, and the effect upon the central nervous system is known to be beneficial. Everything heard here is priceless for the fact that it is possible to derive from each performance a completely unfounded sense of well-being. In a jaded, postmodern world, that is a precious thing.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf