Keith Nichols

Harlem's Arabian Nights

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The Stomp Off label releases so many high-quality releases that it easy to overlook some of the really unique ones. British pianist-bandleader Keith Nichols was in the U.S. and took a visit to the Library of Congress. With the help of tuba player Ed Goldstein, he turned up a variety of early jazz arrangements, many of which were unpublished and/or unrecorded. The majority of the selections on this CD by Keith Nichols Cotton Club Orchestra have not been heard since the 1920s, and even then were barely known. The arrangements by Nichols and some of his sidemen are very much in the style of the period and bring to life these long-lost treasures. Just to name a few, there's Duke Ellington's "Minstrel Days," "Jim Dandy," "What a Life," "Memphis Wail," "Yam Brown" and "With You"; James P. Johnson's "Ukulele Blues," "High Brown," "Mistuh Jim"and "The Hottest Gal in Tennessee"; Fats Waller's "Say It With Your Feet," and a couple forgotten songs ("Here Comes My Blackbird" and "Dixie") from Lewis Leslie's Blackbirds Orchestra's 1928 show. Even the ones that were recorded, such as Cliff Jackson's "Horse Feathers" and Ellington's "The Blues I Love to Sing," have rarely been heard since. While Nichols' 11-piece band often emulates that of Ellington's, on various songs they sound like Cliff Jackson & His Crazy Cats, Luis Russell's orchestra, Johnny Dodds, Clarence Williams, the McKinney's Cotton Pickers and the Fletcher Henderson's Jazz Five. For classic jazz collectors, this is an exciting and important release.

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