In 1975, when Bluebird brought out a double-LP reissue of vintage Earl Hines big-band recordings, the producers included a chain of beefy instrumentals from 1941. The Classics Chronological series zeroed in and fleshed out an important part of the picture by compiling all of Hines' 1941 material onto one CD 16 years later. What you get are eight terrific instrumentals interspersed with ten vocal tracks and a pair of fine piano solos. Since the vocal performances were aimed at the general record-buying public, they deviate noticeably from the powerhouse home base of big-band swing infused with intimations of the approaching bebop revolution. Eight instrumentals, then, form the backbone of this volume in the complete recordings of Earl Hines. "Up Jumped the Devil" and the attractive "Jersey Bounce" were designed for dancers, fairly bristling with hot drum breaks by Rudy Traylor and steamy solos by trumpeter George Dixon and tenor man Franz Jackson. Jackson composed, arranged, and blew his horn on "South Side," a cooker with solos by trumpeter Harry Jackson and Scoops Carey on clarinet. "Windy City Jive," composed and arranged by Buster Harding, has a tenor sax solo by the mighty Budd Johnson. Arranged by Eddie Durham, "Swingin' on C" overflows with great solos, including two trombone breaks by John "Streamline" Ewing. "Yellow Fire," a vivid, time-honored stomp for big band, finishes off with a percussion explosion by Traylor. Presiding over all of this excitement, Earl Hines distinguishes himself from time to time with piano breaks amid the other solos. "The Father Jumps," borrowing an ascending riff from Duke Ellington's "Merry Go Round," is a good hot jam with foamy drumming. "The Earl" is completely built around the pianist's presence, as he executes flashy tricks and wiggly runs between big-band blasts. This track showcases some of Hines' finest keyboard calisthenics. On the two unaccompanied piano solos, Hines demonstrates what could be called "Chicago stride," experimenting more than a bit with the structure of "Melancholy Baby." As for the vocalists, Billy Eckstine turns in half a dozen calorie-laden performances, the best of which is the slightly outrageous "Jitney Man," wherein he approaches the joyous theatricality of Al Hibbler. Madeline Green had a sweet little voice, but listeners are almost never able to appreciate it without the sugary backing of a vocal group calling itself the Three Varieties -- a takeoff on the Heinz condiment company's much-touted slogan, "57 Varieties." These singers try for the confectionary sound that many white big bands were hopelessly addicted to at the time. They pour syrup all over the place, and as a result some of the pop-oriented material feels at times a bit sticky. But that's what you get in a complete chronological survey of everything this bandleader did in order to stay in business over the space of eight months in 1941.
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