Frank Melrose is best known in jazz history as a pianist from the late '20s/early '30s who at times sounded so close to Jelly Roll Morton that his records were mistakenly thought by some to be by Jelly Roll under a different name. His early death (murdered in 1941, most likely by gangsters) has made him a mystery figure, so the first-time release of this extensive 1940 session in 2006 is a major event in the world of classic jazz. The 18 selections, which include two solo performances ("Body and Soul" and "Boy in the Boat") and a trio number, mostly feature Melrose as the leader of a swing/Dixieland four-horn octet. Surprisingly, he no longer sounds at all like Morton (even on Jelly Roll's "New Orleans Blues") and comes across as a high-quality swing/boogie-woogie pianist with a sound of his own. These performances are also valuable for the early Bunny Berigan-inspired solos of cornetist Pete Daily (who became known for his series of Capitol records in the 1950s) and the rare spots for C-melody saxophonist Boyce Brown, who soon dropped out of music to become a monk (renamed Brother Matthew). The three good-time vocals by June Davis add to the set's happy feel and there are also spots for trombonist Bill Helgart and LeRoy Smith, who plays the E-flat clarinet and sounds a little like Pee Wee Russell. Recorded in Chicago and originally scheduled to be issued by the Signature label, the music somehow survived for 66 years being unknown and not even listed in discographies. It is a miracle that it is still in such fine shape, and rewarding that the performances are excellent. Recommended to fans of the music of the era.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow