When the reissue label Mosaic was in its first decade of operation, it mined the Blue Note vaults to license long-neglected sessions such as the three heard on this compilation. Benny Morton was one of the top trombonists of the swing era, though he has been somewhat overshadowed by others who received more publicity and the fact that he recorded infrequently as a leader. Morton's five tracks include a sextet with Ellington veterans Barney Bigard and Ben Webster, with a rhythm section made up of pianist Sammy Benskin, bassist Israel Crosby, and drummer Eddie Dougherty. Morton, Bigard, and Webster are the stars and it is hard to avoid comparisons to the Ellington sound, though it hardly keeps this date from being a memorable one. Although Benskin didn't merit inclusion in the album title, he leads a strong trio with bassist Billy Taylor and drummer Specs Powell on four tracks, two of which ("Rosetta" and "Williphant Willie") were previously unissued. His lightly swinging version of "Cherry" sounds somewhat like Teddy Wilson, but without the latter's trademark runs. Clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton recruited a number of fellow Duke Ellington sidemen to record four selections in the fall of 1945, including Ray Nance, Henderson Chambers, Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, and Oscar Pettiford, with pianist Jimmy Jones and drummer Sid Catlett added to the date. The familiarity of the musicians with one another made it easy for them to tackle the originals written for the session, which is highlighted by Hamilton's warm "Blues for Clarinets," featuring the leader, Carney, and Hardwick together on clarinets. This release was issued exclusively as a limited-edition LP by Mosaic in 1986 and has been long out of print, though a few of its tracks were briefly available on the Blue Note CD compilation Blue Note Swingtets a decade later. Collectors are advised to keep a sharp eye out on auction list for this valuable compilation of rare and rewarding swing sessions.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden