This third volume of Lucky Millinder's complete works in chronological order brings together for the first time three Deccas from October 1947, 12 sides recorded for Victor between January and November 1949, and 12 titles waxed for the King label during the year 1950. Millinder is remembered as a shrewd bandleader who accurately assessed the prevailing trends in popular entertainment during the late '40s. His strategy seems to have involved a wide range of musical styles, a spectrum reflected in this grab bag compilation. Millinder clearly tailored the material to fit each record label and its assumed audience. Of course, Victor was selling to a more generalized public while King's clientele was predominately Afro-American. Listening through all 25 tracks is quite an experience. There is coy, bluesy jazz and there is jazzy blues sung by saucy, soulful Annisteen Allen. There's a surprise appearance by rowdy Myra Johnson, famous for her work with Fats Waller during the early '40s. There are crooners who exude oily sentimental ballads. There are several jump tunes on which Millinder himself sings boisterously along with the band. And there are just three instrumentals, groovy as can be but only three. "Bersark [sic] Boogie" is a progressively structured, pleasantly manic woogie set in a minor mode. The rocking, rolling "D Natural Blues" is really "Do the Hucklebuck," itself a pilfering of Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time." By January of 1949 half of the white bands in the country were making money off of this tune, so Mr. Lucky decided to get himself a piece of the action. (Naturally, nobody was paying Bird any royalties.) "Awful Natural" is a very cool piece of blues featuring the elegant clarinet of Tony Scott. Lucky Millinder's orchestra, in fact, was peppered with outstanding players like trumpeter Lamar Wright, trombonist Tyree Glenn, guitarist Danny Barker, drummer Art Blakey, and a formidable team of saxophonists including Rudy Powell (Musheed Karween), Bull Moose Jackson, Ike Quebec, Frank Wess, Paul Quinichette, Seldon Powell, John Hardee, and Numa "Pee Wee" Moore. While more uniformly satisfying Millinder retrospectives surely exist, the Classics Chronological Series provides an overview that is necessary for an accurate appraisal of this amazing all-purpose jazz/pop/R&B orchestra and the individuals who kept it going during a transitional time when many other big bands fell apart at the seams.
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