In 1999 the Best of Jazz label came up with an Introduction to Erskine Hawkins containing 22 well-chosen, chronologically presented performances recorded in New York for the Vocalion, Victor and Bluebird labels between April 19, 1937 and December 20, 1947 (the album title's citation of the year 1936 is incorrect). A native of Birmingham, AL, trumpeter Erskine Hawkins was still calling his band the 'Bama State Collegians when the first two tracks on this collection were waxed. Using arrangements mostly written by trumpeter Sam Lowe and alto saxophonist William Johnson, the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra had several excellent soloists in addition to the leader, whose upper register technique was formidable. Wilbur "Dud" Bascomb was also featured on the trumpet; his brother Paul Bascomb blew tenor sax, as did Julian Dash, the father of filmmaker Julia Dash, while Haywood Henry anchored the reeds with his baritone sax. Pianist Avery Parrish was a vital component in the band; his "After Hours" became a huge hit for this band. After Parrish was beaten almost to death in a barroom brawl that left him permanently paralyzed, he was replaced by pianist and singer Ace Harris. Vocalists on this excellent Erskine Hawkins sampler include Ida James, Merle Turner, Billy Daniels and saxophonist Jimmy Mitchelle, a sugary crooner who emulated Andy Kirk's Pha Terrell, Duke Ellington's Herb Jeffries and Jimmie Lunceford's Dan Grissom. Rest assured that most of the music on this disc is instrumental and eminently danceable for those who like to move to the sounds of big-band swing.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf