Taking in a range of key jazz figures like Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington, as well as obscure innovators like John Kirby, the Smithsonian collection of jazz records provide fans with both history and context to go with their listening experiences. And beyond thorough liner note, musical analysis, and rare photos, one gets a representative and chronological sampling of each artist's prime recordings. In the case of trumpeter and bebop innovator Dizzy Gillespie, that means everything from early big-band sides with Cab Calloway to important dates as a leader of his own combos. And while, for the sake of historical focus, some of the tracks here are a bit on the rough side sonically speaking, the collection on the whole is so chock-full of top cuts and incredible solo work one doesn't even notice the surface noise. One does hear Gillespie hone his fiery and complex trumpet approach while sitting in with the bands of Lucky Millinder, Billy Eckstine, Coleman Hawkins, and Boyd Raeburn, and later come into his own leading a variety of bands like his All Stars and Tempo Jazzmen. The stellar guest list includes tenor saxophonists Lucky Thompson and Don Byas, drummer Max Roach, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and pianist Al Haig, among many others. Along with two fine Sarah Vaughan vocal features and some rare club recordings made at Monroe's Uptown House in 1941, highlights include classic 1945-1946 versions of "Groovin' High," "Salt Peanuts," "I Can't Get Started," and "'Round Midnight." Rich and essential.
Development of an American Artist, 1940-1946 Review
by Stephen Cook