Charlie Singleton

1949-1953

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Born in Kansas City around 1930, alto and tenor saxophonist Charlie Singleton went to the same school as Charlie Parker had a few years earlier -- Lincoln High -- and even studied with Bird's music teacher Leo Davis. In 1949, Singleton started making records under his own name in New York City at the precocious age of 19. This exciting Classics Chronological Series compilation, described as "the first reissue in any format of Singleton's R&B legacy," is packed with surprises. The first two tracks -- exceptionally fine blues instrumentals -- originally appeared on the Apollo label, and were followed by a pair of Linwood Sutton vocal selections issued on Star Records. These are notable for the presence of Jackie McLean on baritone sax and Gildo Mahones at the piano. Singleton made a handful of recordings in 1950: first for the obscure Lee label, then four sides for Saturn Records (no apparent relation to Sun Ra's enterprise) with a young Lou Donaldson blowing alto and baritone saxes. Two rowdy novelties recorded for Decca in early December 1950 bring several important names into the picture: trumpeter Ray Copeland, tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson, Eddie Barefield sitting in on baritone, and none other than Herbie Nichols at the piano. The remaining 12 tracks were all originally issued on the Atlas label during the early '50s. Donaldson resurfaces again on a couple of sides from 1952 and as part of an "all-star" group including Buster Cooper, Jesse Drakes, and Charlie Rouse, a lineup that circumstantially links Charlie Singleton with Duke Ellington, Lester Young, and Thelonious Monk. Baritone sax ace Numa "Pee Wee" Moore, soon to become a mainstay in both Dizzy Gillespie's and James Moody's orchestras, makes a brief appearance, as does Jimmy Cobb, percussionist supreme. Like Charlie Parker and so many gifted musicians who came up in Kansas City, Charlie Singleton was a superb blues player. Seven of the 24 tracks feature various gutsy vocalists. These performances are satisfying and fun but the instrumentals are outstanding all-purpose R&B grooves, solid and substantial.

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