Although issued on the Swing label -- a French enterprise -- the four selections that open this exciting collection are full-force American bebop, recorded in New York during September of 1946. With Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham, Sonny Stitt, and Bud Powell in the band, the energy is so powerful that sensitive listeners may experience gooseflesh. "Epistrophy" sounds profoundly modern, far ahead of nearly anything else on the scene in 1946. "52nd Street Theme" is a brave essay in a new form. The trumpets dance circles around each other and the whole session comes off like the grand achievement that it surely was. Although this is considered Vol. 1 of the Kenny Clarke chronology, his discography really begins with pianist and bandleader Edgar Hayes. Clarke's excellent drumming and his work as a skilled vibraphonist are well documented on both Edgar Hayes volumes in the Chronological series (Classics 730 and 1053). In March of 1938 Kenny Clarke's "Kvintet," with Hayes at the piano and Clarke playing vibes, made four records in Stockholm, only one of which -- the instrumental -- was memorable. Almost exactly ten years later Clarke was entrusted with the task of touring Scandinavia with a group composed of players from the Dizzy Gillespie big band. Financial hassles curtailed their plans and they landed instead in Paris, where most of the material on this CD was recorded. The session recorded March 2, 1948, is notable for the presence of trumpeter Benny Bailey and baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne. It also provides an audible glimpse of sadly under-recorded alto saxophonist Joe Brown, an early follower of Charlie Parker. Note also the presence of pianist Ralph Schecroun, who would eventually change his name to Errol Parker and move to the U.S., developing a ferocious, almost chiropractic technique as he forged his own unique style of ultra-percussive modern piano. As Kenny Clarke continued to sow bop ideology among Parisians during the spring of 1948, it is fascinating how quickly and adroitly these young Frenchmen took it up without resorting to base mimicry. The most musically advanced material emerged during the session recorded on May 4, with violinist Andre Hodeir providing a wistful intro for Clarke's intriguing opus "Algerian Cynicism." The title refers to the enigma of French colonialism in North Africa, and reflects a political awareness every bit as progressive as the music itself. The material recorded on the following day is permeated with a Coleman Hawkins flavor, echoing that saxophonist's healthy response to the latest developments in jazz. "Working Eyes" sounds a little like "Raincheck" or any one of Billy Strayhorn's upbeat modern ideas. This outstanding collection of recordings -- rarely heard outside of Europe for many years -- reaffirms Kenny "Klook" Clarke's crucial role as a primal innovator in early modern jazz.
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