When Bobby Hackett's band is in the house and presents a pretty tune at a relaxed tempo, the spirit within the song has a chance to climb out of its shell and perch for a few minutes over the front door like one of William Blake's pigmented angels. Hackett's sensitivity turns every ballad into a magical daydream. When the band turns on the heat, you're getting Chicago-style, Eddie Condon-approved traditional jazz, right straight out of the bottle. Condon in fact played guitar on the session of December 23, 1943, along with a swell tenor saxophonist named Nick Caiazza and no-nonsense trombonist Ray Conniff. Pianist Frank Signorelli, composer of "Serenade in Blue" and cardinal member of the Original Memphis Five, takes an occasional break during some of the stomps but really gets to shine with a full-length solo during his magnum opus, "I'll Never Be the Same." Some may feel that this one track is reason enough to seek out the entire album. It all depends on how much respect you have for Signorelli, and for the Art of Melody. The Commodore session of 1944, presented in part as "Jam Session at Commodore No. 6," makes lots of room for Ernie Caceres' magnificent baritone saxophone, with a few diversions supplied by Pee Wee Russell. Lou McGarity was a trombonist comparable to George Brunies. Jess Stacy's piano chemistry worked exceptionally well when combined with Hackett's dignified persona. These excellent jams also perfectly illustrate the artistry of George Wettling, Eddie Condon's preferred percussionist. Wettling drove a substantially different band through four sides for the Melrose label in May of 1945. The ballads are gorgeous; the hot numbers really rip. Both of the sessions from February 1946 utilize a big-band sound intended for slow dancing, with sentimental arrangements by ex-Paul Whiteman anesthesiologist Bill Challis. Lush reeds hover behind Hackett's romantic horn with brief spotlights on clarinetist Hank d'Amico and guitarist Carl Kress. Johnny Guarnieri noodles gently on a celeste, sweetening up an already honey-drenched confection. A nice four-minute V-Disc trio performance is provided to clear the palette.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf