Various Artists

Great Jazz Orchestras

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AllMusic Review by

The Classics chronological reissue series offers an unprecedented overview of vintage jazz and blues, transcending the original label copyright restrictions in order to document the recording careers of musicians who lived and died both in the limelight and the penumbra of popular culture. Each CD in the series represents a segment of a given artist's professional life, presenting, on the average, 24 historical tracks culled from original 78 rpm platters and early LPs. Three discs extracted from this series appear together under the heading of Great Jazz Orchestras. As with its partner compilation, Great Jazz Pianists, the artists and their work were chosen carefully: Duke Ellington (1936-1937), Jimmie Lunceford (1937-1939) and Count Basie (1938-1939). The Ellington disc includes six vocals by Ivie Anderson and two sessions' worth of material played by scaled down ensembles with Ellington at the piano but nominally led by sidemen Rex Stewart and Barney Bigard. Lunceford's portion glows with arrangements by Sy Oliver, Eddie Durham, Edwin Wilcox, Leon Carr and Willie Smith, and with vocals by Dan Grissom, Eddie Tompkins and the definitively hip, suave and nonchalant Trummy Young. Representing the emergence of Kansas City Swing, Basie's disc features both the big band and six magnificent quartet performances. Peppered with vocals by Jimmy Rushing and Helen Humes, this chapter in the Basie story contains essential contributions from Herschel Evans, Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Eddie Durham and Dicky Wells; arrangements are credited to Evans, Jimmy Mundy, Andy Gibson and Buster Smith. With Ellington's "Black Butterfly," Lunceford and Oliver's "For Dancers Only" and Basie's "Jumpin' at the Woodside" all in one package, this is an enjoyable, entertaining and informative crash course in big band swing from the '30s.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:01
2 2:54
3 3:15
4 2:51
5 2:42
6
2:55
7 3:09
8 2:58
9 3:14
10 2:59
11 3:02
12 3:04
13 2:55
14 3:03
15
2:47
16 2:49
17 3:03
18 2:44
19 2:43
20 3:15
21 2:45
22 2:46
23 2:59
24 2:46
25 2:56

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:05
2 3:20
3 2:53
4 3:15
5 3:08
6 3:12
7 2:58
8 3:00
9 3:13
10 3:25
11 2:48
12 3:01
13 3:00
14 3:03
15 3:08
16 2:48
17 3:20
18 3:08
19 3:08
20 3:06
21 2:50
22 2:46
23 2:36
24 3:01

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:10
2 2:43
3 3:00
4 2:47
5 3:10
6 2:49
7 2:41
8 2:47
9 2:56
10 3:12
11 3:12
12 3:09
13 3:04
14 2:53
15 3:00
16 3:06
17 2:49
18 3:15
19 2:59
20 3:05
21 2:47
22 2:43
23 2:33
blue highlight denotes track pick