Well, let's put it this way. If you were to choose one Muggsy Spanier collection out of his portion of the Classics Chronological Series (or any edition on any other label for that matter), let it be Classics 709, which contains all of the essential material from every session he led between July 7, 1939 and June 1, 1942. This includes the master takes from Spanier's Bluebird "Ragtime Band" sessions of 1939, which are generally considered to have been the apex of his entire career. Participants in these joyous and staunchly traditional proceedings included singing trombonist George Brunies, master clarinetist Rod Cless, tenor saxophonists Ray McKinstry, Bernie Billings and Nick Caiazza, and pianists Joe Bushkin and George Zack. From the languid reflectivity of "Relaxin' at the Touro" to the punchy rowdiness of "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate," this is the very best of the music Muggsy Spanier left to posterity, and it virtually defines the entire genre of Chicago-style New Orleans-inspired traditional jazz. What makes this collection even finer and more useful is the addition of eight lesser-known Decca recordings cut in January and June 1942, with Caiazza joined at times by clarinetist Irving Fazola and someone named Benny Goodman operating both the black stick and the alto sax. Vocals throughout this delightful collection are as follows: George Brunies sings "Big Butter and Egg Man," "Dinah," and "Sister Kate"; trombonist Ford Leary arm wrestles Vernon Dalhart, as it were, in "The Wreck of the Old 97," and Dottie Reid croons "More Than You Know." The most important ingredient, of course, is the wonderful cornet of Muggsy Spanier, who Lester Young gently christened "Muddy Spaniels."
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