The first volume in the Classics Larry Darnell chronology presents all of his earliest recordings, beginning with four titles cut in Newark, NJ, in September of 1949. On that occasion and at two subsequent sessions held in New Orleans at the beginning of 1950, he was backed with a trumpet, two saxophones, and rhythm. "I'll Get Along Somehow" was issued in two parts on either side of Regal 3236. The famous heartbroken recitation, which occurs during the first half of the B side, was copied by the Velvetones on their 1957 hit record, "Glory of Love," and even resurfaced in October of 1968 when the Mothers of Invention (masquerading as Ruben & the Jets) quoted from it during their masterful doo wop send-up "Later That Night." Darnell's monologue also has something in common with a casually cynical narrative that was cheerfully articulated by Dorothy Shay, a gorgeous comedienne billed as the Park Avenue Hillbilly, on her weirdly masochistic "Say That We're Sweethearts Again." Darnell himself once stated that he copped the idea from Bobby Marshall, a singer he had heard as a youngster back in Columbus, OH, before leaving town to work as an itinerant dancer at the age of 15. On "I Love You So," the instrumentation was adjusted to form a front line of trumpet, sax, and trombone with a rhythm section now including bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Sam Woodyard, exceptional players both destined for great accomplishments in the company of Duke Ellington. Jazz musicians keep showing up in Darnell's discography, most notably reedmen Eddie Barefield, Hank Mobley, and Budd Johnson; trumpeters Taft Jordan and Dick Vance; and pianist Ellis Larkins. As if to further demonstrate the ongoing interconnectivity between jazz and R&B, Darnell recorded his own soulful rendition of Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" in 1950. His exciting later sides for Regal and a fine OKeh session from 1951 with the Howard Biggs Orchestra are the work of a passionate singer at the peak of his powers. Taken in succession, these 24 classic sides are marvelously entertaining, with Darnell either crooning, belting out the blues, or rocking it up and sounding a bit like Jackie Wilson when the band started cooking and steaming.
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