Ziggy Elman played trumpet beautifully and made lasting, significant contributions to the ripening of jazz and swing during the months immediately preceding the Second World War. As if to illustrate the point, this first segment of Elman's chronology contains his Bluebird recordings dating from December 28, 1938, through December 26, 1939. During this period, the trumpeter's band invariably consisted of two alto and two tenor saxophones with piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Over the course of 12 months a series of fine players passed through Elman's band. Among them were saxophonists Arthur Rollini, Babe Russin, Hymie Schertzer, Toots Mondello, and Jerry Jerome, and pianists Jess Stacy, Milt Raskin, and Johnny Guarnieri. The opening track, "Fralich in Swing," would soon become famous as Benny Goodman's hugely popular "And the Angels Sing." After playing it through at a languid pace, Elman accelerates the tempo to reveal the melody's origins as a Jewish wedding dance. For the flip side Elman chose "Bublitchki," an attractive update of a traditional Slavic air. In a strikingly hip maneuver, his next pair of tunes were drawn from the Richard M. Jones and Maceo Pinkard catalog, respectively. The tasteful repertoire presented throughout this compilation combines relaxing ballads ("I'll Never Be the Same" is particularly eloquent) and catchy dance tunes ("Zaggin' with Zig"). The Judaic element resurfaces nicely during the peculiarly titled "What Used to Was Used to Was (Now It Ain't)." This entire disc is packed with friendly, accessible jazz that swings. No gimmicks, no gags, no self-conscious singers. Ziggy didn't need 'em.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf