Musically, this is a tremendous set, but the LP from the Australian Swaggie label may be difficult to find; fortunately, the Classics label has been reissuing this important music too. Bud Freeman, one of the few tenor saxophonists prior to Lester Young not to sound like Coleman Hawkins, is heard on four hot titles with his "Windy City Five" in 1935. Good as Bud is on tunes such as "Keep Smiling at Trouble" and "What Is There to Say," solo honors generally go to the exciting trumpeter Bunny Berigan; the rhythm section (pianist Claude Thornhill, rhythm guitarist Eddie Condon, bassist Grachan Moncur and drummer Cozy Cole) is also quite notable. The bulk of the album consists of three four-song sessions by Freeman's Summa Cum Laude Orchestra, a hot octet consisting of Bud, trumpeter Max Kaminsky, valve trombonist Brad Gowans, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, pianist Dave Bowman, Condon, either Clyde Newcombe or Pete Peterson on bass, and Al Seidle or Morey Feld on drums. Although under Freeman's leadership and having some arrangements by Gowans, the group often sounds like an Eddie Condon "Nicksieland" band. Eight of their 12 numbers are taken from the songbook of the Wolverines in 1924 (which featured Bix Beiderbecke), but the solos and ensembles are quite fresh, rather than just re-creations. Spirited and historic music, easily recommended to Dixieland and small-group swing collectors.
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