Andy Kirk

Clouds from the Southwest

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There were many reunions of swing-era big bands during the 1950s, but this was certainly one of the most unusual ones. Andy Kirk led a popular and swinging orchestra during 1929-48, but in 1956, his reunion only included one of his alumni (pianist Ken Kersey) -- and only on seven of the 12 numbers. Why Mary Lou Williams and the other survivors were not enlisted for this project is unclear. Last available as a French RCA LP, the music is worthwhile, even though Mary Lou Williams' original charts were updated by Manny Albam, Ernie Wilkins and Al Cohn, and a top-notch orchestra of studio players having nothing to do with Kirk was employed. With such major players as trumpeters Conte Candoli and Joe Newman, trombonist Jimmy Cleveland and Al Cohn on tenor being among the soloists, such vintage tunes as "A Mellow Bit of Rhythm," "McGhee Special," "Froggy Bottom" and "Walkin' and Swingin'" are treated well, but this was certainly a mysterious date.