Saxophonist, bandleader and entrepreneur Teddy Hill is often remembered mainly as the organizer of informal after-hours jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem during the early '40s. Those who delve a bit more assiduously into the history of jazz eventually learn that Teddy Hill led an excellent big band during the '30s. He started out playing drums and trumpet, then took up clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones. Hill developed his chops during the '20s accompanying the Whitman Sisters then worked with George Howe, Frank Bunch & His Fuzzy Wuzzies and the Luis Russell orchestra, a fine band in which he nevertheless found few opportunities to solo (this almost certainly inspired his later decision to organize open-ended blowing sessions at Minton's). Hill put together his own band in 1934; this group secured steady employment broadcasting over the NBC radio network. All of their 1935 and 1936 recordings were derived from their radio work; they began making records in the Victor studios in 1937. Some of the singing may seem quaint or even saccharine; "Big Boy Blue," however, is full of pep and the stylized group vocal on "The Love Bug Will Bite You if You Don't Watch Out" is a bubbly delight. Note the inclusion of several Hill originals and a perfectly matched pair of atmospheric novelties: Larry Clinton's "Study in Brown" and Raymond Scott's "Twilight in Turkey." Some of Hill's players have become jazz legends -- Roy Eldridge, Bill Coleman, Frankie Newton, Shad Collins, Dicky Wells, Russell Procope and Chu Berry. Yet some folks will consider the presence of young Dizzy Gillespie on the session of May 17, 1937 as the main attraction; "King Porter Stomp" contains his very first recorded solo. Teddy Hill's entire recorded output fits neatly onto one compact disc. While this exact body of work has also been reissued on the Hep and Jazz Archives labels, the easy-to-consult layout of the Classics discography speaks strongly in its favor.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf