Andy Kirk

Andy Kirk & The 12 Clouds of Joy

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Amidst the day's heavy hitters -- Ellington, Basie, and Goodman -- Andy Kirk's band made a name for themselves with some of the tightest swing of the '30s. Their prime stretch came in the latter half of the decade, as pianist and arranger Mary Lou Williams became a dominant force in the group. This fine ASV overview tells part of the story with 22 of the group's best cuts. And while highlights like "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" and "The Lady Who Swings the Band" are omitted, the disc makes up for it with the solid likes of "Mary's Idea," "Floyd's Guitar Blues," and an excellent cover of Bennie Moten's "Moten Swing." Plus, there's plenty of fine soloing by alto saxophonist John Williams, trumpeter Harry Lawson, tenor saxophonist Don Byas, and, of course, Williams herself. Unfortunately, there are none of Pha Terrell's infectious vocal cuts or Dick Wilson's tenor vehicles here. For those sides and more from the Kirk band's prime, check out Classics' many chronological discs.

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