Drummer Art Blakey's quote posted at the beginning of the liner notes to Living Era's Earl Bostic tribute album says it all: "Nobody knew more about the saxophone than Bostic, I mean technically, and that includes Bird." Now, Charlie Parker is never lightly invoked, least of all by someone as involved and well-informed as Art Blakey. A skilled multi-instrumentalist and arranger, Earl Bostic was first and foremost a virtuoso saxophonist who developed his stunning intonation and almost superhuman dexterity on the road during the 1930s with bands led by Joseph Robichaux, Charlie Creath, Fate Marable, Ernie Fields, Edgar Hayes, and Don Redman. Bostic's first opportunity to record occurred in 1939 with Lionel Hampton. He then worked with the Hot Lips Page band and made his first big mark on jazz and popular music by composing Gene Krupa's hit tune "Let Me Off Uptown." It took Bostic many years to find the right formula for success, and the appropriate record label for his special brand of jumpin' jazzy R&B. After a series of false starts with the Majestic and Gotham labels, Bostic initiated a very productive business arrangement with King Records in 1949. Bostic soon became famous for being able to take any song in the world and transform it into ideal jukebox material for either slow-grind dip or rock & roll dancing. Living Era's outstanding survey of Bostic's best years covers a time line from November 1945 to January 27, 1955. Jazz heads who scan through the enclosed discography will gape at some of the names that crop up: trumpeters Benny Harris, Blue Mitchell, Johnny Coles, and Tommy Turrentine; trombonist Benny Morton; reedmen Eddie Barefield, Don Byas, Walter "Foots" Thomas, Pinky Williams, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, and Stanley Turrentine; vibraphonists Teddy Charles and Gene Redd; guitarists Al Casey and Tiny Grimes; and pianist Jaki Byard (identified here as "Jaki Bayard"). The music is thrilling, the bands are excellent, and Earl Bostic, as previously noted, was without question one of the most ferociously facile saxophonists in the history of the instrument.
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