Unlike so many previous reissues, this portion of the Illinois Jacquet chronology places these historical sessions side by side rather than sorting them out by label. Bringing together the last of Jacquet's Aladdin and Apollo recordings in this way is illuminating, informative, and entertaining. Jacquet's Apollo All Stars octet that recorded in August 1946 had a fine front line in trumpeter Joe Newman, trombonist Trummy Young, and alto saxophonist Ray "King" Perry alongside Jacquet's powerful tenor, supported by John Simmons, Freddie Green, Bill Doggett, and the amazing Denzil Best. "Jumpin' at Apollo" and "12 Minutes to Go" are the obligatory cookers, tempered with the walking "Jacquet Bounce" and "She's Funny That Way," a cool addition to Jacquet's marvelous catalog of ballads. As part of a heat wave of postwar tenor saxophony, Illinois blazed his own trail through stylistic terrain also traversed by Wardell Gray and Lucky Thompson. Like everything heard on this disc, Jacquet's 16-piece Aladdin big-band session from January 1947 reflects the Count Basie experience in high relief. While the trumpet section -- fortified with Joe Newman, Fats Navarro, and Miles Davis -- makes this a formidable listening experience, the star of the upbeat numbers -- and, in a way, of every session for the remainder of this collection -- is master percussionist Shadow Wilson, who thunders and shakes on "Big Dog" and "Jivin' with Jack the Bellboy," a reference to an extroverted drum feature recorded in 1940 by Lionel Hampton. Anyone who is lucky enough to possess the original 78-rpm Aladdin recording of "Blow, Illinois, Blow" can testify to the excitement of hearing a tenor saxophone wailing in front of a nine-piece band, coming up through the surface noise of a rapidly rotating platter. Digitally cleansed, this track sounds stunningly immediate as the ensemble seems to surround the listener and gradually close in. "Illinois Blows the Blues" knocks the band down to tenor and rhythm for one of Jacquet's definitive statements on record, feeling at times almost like a duet with Sir Charles Thompson. Back with Apollo for the last time in May of 1947, Jacquet retained certain key players from his previous couple of dates. Mention must be made of Leo Parker's exceptionally fine baritone sax outbursts. Jacquet regularly engages in his signature high-pitched wailing, a sound that some critics disparage but most open-minded listeners will enjoy as a necessary optional response to everyday life in the 20th century. Sir Charles, who plays on all of the dates from April 1, 1947, onward, exerted a marvelous influence upon Mr. Jacquet. Exhibit A would be Thompson's "Robbin's Nest" -- the version heard here is an easygoing delight. "Jumpin' at the Woodside," on the other hand, is almost frightening in its intensity, largely on account of Parker's snarling baritone. As the saga of Illinois Jacquet enters into the autumn of 1947, J.J. Johnson fans will want to listen for the trombone during the final eight tracks on this exceptionally satisfying album of early modern jazz.
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