Fresh from his galvanizing tenure with the Cootie Williams Orchestra, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson began making records with his own excellent 14-piece rhythm and swing band. This compilation presents everything Vinson recorded for the Mercury label in New York beginning in December of 1945, continuing through 1946 into the spring of 1947. While Vinson's piquant voice and solid alto saxophone invariably stimulate and entertain, the big band itself is magnificent, sounding at times like the exciting ensembles being led during the 1940s by Count Basie, Buddy Johnson, Gerald Wilson, Earl Hines, Earl Bostic, or the aforementioned Cootie Williams. Every player was on his toes and special mention should be made of Earl Van Riper's masterful piano technique. Mingled with Vinson's patented blues vocals are a number of fascinating instrumentals: "Mr. Cleanhead Steps Out," "It's a Groovy Affair," "Boogie Woogie Holiday," "Br'er Rabbit," and a smoking hot swing version of "Three O'Clock in the Morning," this last item an artifact originally published as a waltz in 1922! But the balance of the tunes on this compilation are exactly what seasoned Cleanhead Vinson fans would expect -- gutsy blues with feisty lyrics describing domestic troubles and peculiar personal predicaments. Why Mercury originally rejected tracks five through nine is anybody's guess. Thank goodness the producers of this excellent Classics retrospective included them here. The final three selections were recorded in St. Louis on April 29, 1947, with a band that included a 26-year-old jazz trumpeter by the name of Clark Terry.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf