This is a better than decent representative collection, 22 songs (all from his first stay on the Victor label), covering the repertoire from "The Japanese Sandman" to "Rhapsody in Blue" during the years 1920-1928, when Paul Whiteman was among the most popular and progressive bandleaders in the country. The jazz elements are rather muted -- Whiteman didn't really begin to open his recordings up in that direction until the tail end of his tenure at Victor in 1927, but there are hot solos on "Hot Lips" and "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" (a song that Whiteman and his band introduced to the world on Broadway as well as on record) and some of the early numbers here, and by the time you get to "Wang Wang Blues" (co-authored by Henry Busse) -- in a previously unissued, electrically recorded version -- there's a fair amount of jazz getting through. Among the notable tracks here are million sellers like "Three O'Clock in the Morning" and the bright, bouncy rendition of "Ol' Man River" sung by Bing Crosby, who also turns up on "My Blue Heaven," cut in 1927. The disc ends with Whiteman's 1927 recording of "Rhapsody in Blue," whose landmark status bridges the worlds of jazz and classical, reflecting Whiteman's own background, interests, and tastes. The truly astonishing element here, beyond the music itself -- which holds up doubly well when one remembers that the jazzy elements here were not conventions when Whiteman set them down -- is the quality of the recordings. Whiteman had one of the largest dance bands or jazz orchestras there was, and a lot of time was spent getting the records to take full advantage of both its dimensions and the virtuosity of the players. The first ten sides here are acoustic recordings, but they have range, resonance, and richness of tone, and the electric sides are even better.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder