The third John Kirby CD from the European Classics label has 21 performances that trace Kirby's unique sextet from the peak of its popularity in 1941 through the war years. In addition to a dozen songs originally released by Victor, this set has nine rarer numbers that appeared on V-Discs. With trumpeter Charlie Shavers, clarinetist Buster Bailey, and altoist Russell Procope (along with pianist Billy Kyle and drummer O'Neil Spencer), Kirby was able to form an unusual and very distinctive group sound that, although comprised of swing virtuosos, looked toward the cool jazz of the 1950s. The band was starting to come apart a bit by the later tracks of this CD, with first Specs Powell and then Bill Beason replacing the late Spencer, George Johnson ably filling in for Procope, and Shavers departing before the final number; however, the group sound remained intact. Among the many highlights of this CD are "Coquette," "Royal Garden Blues," "Night Whispers," "St. Louis Blues," and "9:20 Special."
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow