The name Hillbilly Jazz might sound like an oxymoron to some, but when you think about it, jazz and "hillbilly music" have made for a healthy combination from time to time. The seminal country singer Jimmie Rodgers featured Louis Armstrong as a vocalist on some of his classic 1920s recordings, and Western swing came about when, in the 1930s, Bob Wills and others combined jazz with country and bluegrass. Then, in the 1950s and early '60s, jazz and pre-rock pop influenced country-pop stars like Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson. Hillbilly Jazz was a project that, in 1991, drew on jazz, bluegrass, Western swing, blues, and country. With such talented players as fiddle great Vassar Clements, guitarist David Bromberg, drummer D.J. Fontana, and singer Gordon Terry on board, Hillbilly Jazz successfully turns its attention to everything from Wills' "San Antonio Rose" (a natural choice) to Duke Ellington's "'C' Jam Blues," Benny Goodman's "Breakfast Feud," and Les Brown's "Sentimental Journey." Improvisation is a high priority on Hillbilly Jazz, and a love of improvisation is one thing that jazz, bluegrass, and Western swing players have in common. This rewarding but little-known CD reminds listeners that jazz and "hillbilly music" can fit together quite nicely.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson