Various Artists

Best of the Big Bands: 65 Swinging, Stomping, Jumping Hits

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This budget-priced collection from Prism Entertainment doesn't contain any specific surprises, except perhaps for the fine quality of the audio on material that dates back to the early 1930s (though a considerable amount is from the 1940s as well). Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Bunny Berigan, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, Woody Herman, Jimmy Lunceford, Harry James, Erskine Hawkins, Gene Krupa, Bob Crosby, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Earl Hines, Lucky Millinder, Bobby Hackett, Buddy & Ella Johnson, Les Brown (withDoris Day), Charlie Barnet, Cootie Williams, Billy Eckstine, Andy Kirk & His Twelve Clouds of Joy, Stan Kenton, and the Casa Loma Orchestra are all represented in most of their best-known material from their respective classic periods. Some of the material slips over a bit into R&B, and other tracks are really more "sweet" than "hot," while others owe more to Dixieland than classic big band, but it's difficult to imagine anyone complaining about any of this, as the programming makes most of the transitions seamless. What's more, the annotation by Michael Heatley is fairly ambitious as well for this sort of collection, and their are lots worse ways (especially musically) to spend the three-and-a-half hours that this triple-CD set demands.