Luis Russell


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As different as can be from the Luis Russell recordings of the 1920s and early '30s, most of this material is heavily larded with male vocalists who use up lots of oxygen emulating Billy Eckstine. This was a stylistic trend during the years immediately following World War II, as entire big bands were yoked into subservience behind the all-important Big-Named Singer. As this development made Frank Sinatra and Perry Como into household words -- and caused Nat Cole to practically abandon the piano -- it paved the way for a morbid emphasis on the pop vocalist as cash cow core of the music business. This is a malady from which the industry has yet to recover. None of the singers heard on these Manor and Apollo sides enjoyed popular success, and neither did Russell's short-lived modernized big band. The young musicians who diligently back the singers are able to assert themselves wonderfully on three smoking instrumental tracks, which are as exciting as the vocal selections are soporific. Most noteworthy is the presence of 20-year-old percussionist Roy Haynes, who lathers up the ensemble on "Boogie in the Basement," "1280 Jive," and a bopping "Luke the Spook." The band also sings in unison during a novelty bounce called "I've Got a Gal." On these sides the orchestra sounds something like the rowdy big band being led during this same time period by Roy Eldridge. Additional excitement is generated by pianist Howard Biggs, trombonist Charles Stovall, and a very interesting tenor player by the name of Esmond Samuels. Confronted with only three or four hot jams surrounded by 18 syrupy vocals, the listener is left wishing that Luis Russell's last big band had been given the chance to record at least a dozen more of those tasty upbeat numbers with the instrumental talent out in front. Instead, this chronological package is swamped by gooey vocals without even the quirkiness of an Al Hibbler to relieve the sentimental congestion.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:06
2 2:53
3 2:50
4 3:01
5 3:16
6 3:18
7 2:55
8 2:43
9 3:00
10 2:50
11 3:03
12 2:53
13 2:40
14 3:00
15 3:18
16 3:07
19 2:59
22 3:00
blue highlight denotes track pick