Mezz Mezzrow

King Jazz, Vol. 1

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In 1945, clarinetist and New Orleans jazz propagandist Mezz Mezzrow started recording sessions for his King Jazz label. The music tended to emphasize ensembles, fairly basic chord structures (lots of lowdown blues, some with bridges) and was most notable for featuring the remarkable soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet. The selections (most of which were recorded two or even three or four times) had been released through the years in often random fashion. However, in 1997, GHB reissued the entire catalog on this two-CD set, plus the three-disc Volume Two. Heard in chronological order, the music can finally be enjoyed in its entirety in coherent fashion. The first volume has 11 piano solos by Sammy Price (a fine blues and boogie-woogie player), a pair of numbers in which Price accompanies singer Pleasant Joseph, and four lengthy band sessions. The latter finds Mezzrow and Bechet joined on the first two dates by trumpeter Hot Lips Page, Price, rhythm guitarist Danny Barker, bassist Pops Foster, and drummer Sid Catlett; the final 21 cuts (from Aug. 29 and 30, 1945) find Mezz and Sidney accompanied by pianist Fitz Weston, Foster and drummer Kaiser Marshall; Douglas Daniels takes the vocal on three versions of "Baby, I'm Cuttin' Out." Although there is a certain sameness to the music after awhile, and Mezzrow's sincere flights often run out of gas, the playing of Page and especially Bechet greatly uplift the performances and make this a recommended acquisition to classic jazz collectors.