Esquire magazine sponsored its first jazz concert at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1944 to honor first- and second-place winners in its newly established annual jazz poll, though the concert was used as a fund-raiser to sell war bonds, with excerpts eventually ending up on V-Discs. It was recorded onto transcription discs and broadcast, and has been issued on various albums and CDs with different combinations of songs. This second volume issued by Jazz Unlimited has many highlights, including a romp through "Stompin' at the Savoy" in which Art Tatum's genius at the piano steals the show; bassist Oscar Pettiford's blues "For Bass Faces Only" (also featuring Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins); and a lengthy jam of "Flying Home" that showcases Louis Armstrong, Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, and Tatum. This essential all-star live recording from 1944 is of important historical significance and should be considered essential for swing fans, in spite of some occasional spots where the rhythm section isn't as audible as it should be.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden