What you have here is a veritable audio lexicon of Edmond Hall's style and musical personality. From the first few bars of "It's Been So Long," the clarinetist conjures a disarming atmosphere of warmth and reassurance. The effect is quadrupled as Harry Carney enters, puffing away at his baritone saxophone. The entire Swingtet was in perfect form on May 5, 1944, and the recordings they made on that day are among the very best from Blue Note's first decade. Benny Morton's temperament was perfectly suited for the task of interacting with the other two horns. Their rhythm section was strong enough to provide unflinching support, even when Carney's baritone bellowed and chortled during "Steamin' and Beamin'." The Blue Note date is perfectly complemented by eight magnificent Commodore sides cut during the summer of 1944 in the company of Teddy Wilson. Hall is alternately gentle or briskly bracing. "Caravan" is a wild ride you'll not want to miss. The Swing Sextet session of December 4, 1944, begins with "Opus 15," a slightly modern set of vamps composed by the pianist Ellis Larkins. "Mouse" Randolph does some fine growling through his trumpet and the band runs it down with measured ease. Hall weaves a 45-second introduction to "The Sheik of Araby" before the guys cut loose with it. Four additional sides were cut by practically the same band on some unspecified day in 1945. Larkins contributed another very hip original called "Ellis Island," Hall dreamed up a feisty "Continental Blues," and Randolph shone during a second realization of his own creation, which he simply titled "Face." It sounds like something Lester Young would have enjoyed coasting through. This CD would bear up well under highway driving conditions, even heard twice or thrice through. Every consecutive track is pure pleasure.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf