A very generously programmed compilation from the combined Blue Note, Capitol, Pacific Jazz, and Roulette catalogs, Blue Big Bands takes full advantage of the CD format by bringing us some extended highlights from the postwar big-band jazz idiom. Count Basie's mid-career redefining album, Atomic Mr. Basie, is represented by two cuts ("Li'l Darlin," "Splanky"). Much of what is here, however, is from live concert recordings, including: Cat Anderson blazing away on "El Gato" from Duke Ellington's 70th Birthday Concert; Stan Kenton's band on "It's Alright With Me" from his just-short-of-legendary Live at the Tropicana album; Gerald Wilson represented with "Milestones," a highlight from his 1961 album You Better Believe It; and Buddy Rich showing off tastefully on "Mexicali Noise" from 1967's live Big Swing Face. Gil Evans' "Manteca" showcases Cannonball Adderley from their 1958 sessions together, and Chet Baker is featured on "Chet," from his 1954 sessions which resulted in Chet Baker Big Band. The late 1960s are represented by "Freedom Jazz Dance" from Live in 3/4 Time by Don Ellis and "Be's That Way" from Gil Fuller & the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra. The quality of the digital transfers is excellent, and the only things that might've made this compilation better would've been slightly fuller notes and better information on the complete albums whence these cuts come.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder