The one serious problem with this album is its title track. The discography on the inside of the packaging says that "Bugle Call Rag" was recorded in 1922 by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. This is absolutely true. The recording of "Bugle Call Rag" heard as track one of this CD, however, is not the 1922 NORK version. The rendition of "Bugle Call Rag" heard here was recorded by Allen with Billy Banks and His Orchestra (minus Banks who was late getting to the recording studio) on April 18 1932, and serves as a wonderful if improperly identified opener. It is followed by eight romantic pop-jazz sides from 1937 featuring Red's gentle singing voice. These are delightful for those who know Red and want to hear some rarities, yet eight in a row would not serve as a good first taste for the uninitiated. The second half of the disc, on the other hand, displays Red Allen in full bloom, for all the world to hear. One very satisfying take on "Canal Street Blues" from May of 1940 has Benny Morton and Edmond Hall in the front line along with Lil Armstrong, Bernard Addison, Pops Foster, and Zutty Singleton. Two sessions from 1941 are thoroughly hot and solid, with trombonist J.C. Higginbotham replacing Morton in front of pianist Kenny Kersey, bassist Billy Taylor, and drummer Jimmie Hoskins, who manages to generate extraordinary quantities of steam during Lionel Hampton's "Jack the Bellboy." The numerology ends up looking like this: one mislabeled opener, eight soft-serve pop songs, and ten outstanding examples of Henry "Red" Allen steering a couple of small groups through seven established jazz standards and three originals. For a budget-priced package with only one glaring discographical mistake, it's not bad at all. That version of "Bellboy" alone is worth the price of admission.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf