Welcome to the incredibly solid and inexplicably overlooked music of Frankie Newton, a formidable trumpeter who led a series of bracingly hot swing bands during the late '30s. First comes a hotter than average version of "You Showed Me the Way," with Clarence Palmer singing in a voice that has just a bit of Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon about it. Pete Brown, Cecil Scott, and Edmond Hall heat up the entire first session, and when you add Russell Procope the fur really flies. Listeners even get to hear clarinetist Hall doubling on baritone saxophone. Even more exciting is the presence of Bulee "Slim" Gaillard, making what must be two of his first appearances on record. Slim scats up a storm and the band wails back at him. On July 13, 1937, the Uptown Serenaders came out with the most notoriously weird and irrepressibly hot record ever to appear under Newton's name: "The Onyx Hop" begins as a scorcher, and then Frankie and Pete chant the following lyrics in a strange, stoned-out duet: "Come with me and smoke some tea and I shall carry on/Look out, fellow, let me pass, I shan't be out here long/Love my wife but what has that got to do with this song?/She stayed out one hour overtime, I stayed out all night long/Went down to the Onyx Club and had myself a ball/I got tight off of scotch and stuff and like not got home at all." This recitation quickly ignites a boiling out-chorus. It is one of the funniest and most dazzling uptown swing recordings of the 1930s, and here it is sandwiched between two globs of molasses as Leon LaFell groans out a pair of sentimental songs, probably perceived as necessary confections for the pop audience. But who cares! This incongruity is quickly forgotten as the session of January 13, 1939, appears in its entirety, with James P. Johnson, Pete Brown, and Mezz Mezzrow in addition to Al Casey, John Kirby, and Cozy Cole. Bits and pieces of this session have been reissued here and there over the years, but rarely has the entire session been made available in this way. Three of these tunes, two slow drags and a stomp, were devised by the Mighty Mezz, who more often than not proved to be a good source of solid grooves and funky atmosphere. The effect of six consecutive selections played by this incredible band is downright intoxicating, as is the rest of the material presented here. "Daybreak Blues" and "After Hour Blues," gently but firmly rendered by Newton in front of Albert Ammons, Teddy Bunn, Johnny Williams, and Sid Catlett, constitute the very beginnings of the Blue Note record label. They have previously appeared under the heading of the Port of Harlem Jazzmen, reissued however briefly by the good people at Mosaic Records. Frankie's Cafe Society Orchestra has Tab Smith playing soprano saxophone during the relaxing "Tab's Blues," while "Jitters," "Frankie's Jump," and "Jam Fever" are cookers. "Vamp" bases its dance rhythm on a very simple line. "Parallel Fifths," a walking blues with an underlying boogie-woogie attitude, provides a smooth finish to this almost perfect package of vintage uptown swing.
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