With the exception of two albums under his own name -- Slide Trombone (1955) and Inspired Abandon (1965) -- trombonist Lawrence Brown spent most of his career as a sideman, doing his best work over four decades as featured soloist with the Duke Ellington orchestra. When in 1997 the Best of Jazz label presented a single-disc Lawrence Brown retrospective, 17 of the 22 tracks were drawn from the Ellington archive. These are prefaced and punctuated with five intriguing examples of Brown's adventures before and during his lifelong tenure with the Duke. Recorded in California in April 1929, "The Ramble" (arranged by Lawrence Brown) is a perky example of hot west coast jazz performed by Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders with a young drummer by the name of Lionel Hampton. This little stomp allows for a rare taste of Brown's pre-Ellington slip-horn style, which was clearly influenced by J.C. Higginbotham. This is also true of "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas)" which represents Brown and Hamp's membership in the Les Hite band when it served as the launching pad for Louis Armstrong. "Memories of You" and "Buzzin' Around with the Bee" document Brown's periodic involvement with Lionel Hampton's orchestra during the late '30s. "Zaza" was recorded in 1944 and features an HRS/Keynote ensemble led by cornetist Rex Stewart. The rest of this fine compilation is devoted to Brown's creativity as an essential member of the Ellington brass section where he shone as an unparalleled interpreter of melody and a skilled balladeer capable of improvising with propulsive intensity. A really thorough tribute to this virtuoso trombonist is bound to appear eventually. His best recordings would fill a sizeable box set containing his complete recordings with Paul Howard's unit and more selections from all of the bands mentioned, as well as examples from the Verve sessions Johnny Hodges led during a temporary break with Ellington during the '50s. As an easily digestible single disc, this collection's primary focus on Duke matches Brown's lifelong devotion to that supremely cultivated orchestra.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
feat: Louis Armstrong
feat: Rex Stewart