Jimmy Rushing's first two Columbia Records albums, recorded in 1955 and 1956 and originally released in 1956 and 1957, both have concepts behind them. Cat Meets Chick is actually co-billed to Ada Moore (who had just made her Broadway debut in House of Flowers) and trumpeter Buck Clayton, and it is "a story in jazz," the story being Rushing and Clayton's attempts to woo Moore in song. The plot is silly, but it's just an excuse to have Rushing, sometimes joined by the pleasant alto of Moore, fronting Clayton's Count Basie-style orchestra on some old favorites. The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing, Esq. traces the development of jazz through four cities, each of which is represented by three songs: New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago, and New York. Again, the concept is little more than a framing device, but producer Irving Townsend, using different musicians for each mini-set, does get the feel of jazz in each locale. Rushing, in his early fifties, may not have the voice he did when he was with Basie, but his performances are spirited and his first-ever piano accompaniment on his own "Tricks Ain't Walkin' No More" is a delight. The backup musicians, many of whom get solos, are a who's who of jazz greats, including Billy Butterfield, Urbie Green, Milt Hinton, Hank Jones, Jo Jones, Walter Page, and Zutty Singleton. With that kind of lineup, presenting the history of jazz (especially as it might sound played by Basie) isn't hard. These albums were long overdue for reissue, and putting them together on a discount-priced two-fer makes the release especially appealing.
Cat Meets Chick/The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing, Esq. Review
by William Ruhlmann