Red Norvo

Knockin' on Wood

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This Living Era portrait of Red Norvo presents some of the very best recordings he made between 1933 and 1946. The journey begins with three early "chamber music" sides featuring Norvo's hybrid xylophone/marimba, Jimmy Dorsey's clarinet, Benny Goodman's bass clarinet, Artie Bernstein's string bass, and Dick McDonough's guitar. Legend has it that Norvo waited until after midnight to record "Dance of the Octopus" and Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist," surreptitiously dodging the presence of an intolerant and narrow-minded A&R director who later raised hell when these very unusual recordings were issued to the public. Several small swing band sides form the artistic kernel of Norvo's early recording career. Teamed variously with clarinetist Artie Shaw, tenor saxophonists Charlie Barnet and Chu Berry, trumpeter Bunny Berigan, pianist Teddy Wilson, and drummer Gene Krupa, Norvo cut a series of records that still seem to glow with an irresistible collective persona. There are excellent examples of Norvo's big band with and without vocals by his wife Mildred Bailey; an amazing six minute and fifty seconds of "Just a Mood" featuring the trumpet of Harry James; Norvo's 1943 Overseas Spotlight Band; his Keynote All Star Sextet; magnificent small units led by clarinetists Edmond Hall and Benny Goodman; a stunning run through Vincent Youmans' "Hallelujah" in the company of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie; a segment of the Red Norvo Quintet's performance at Eddie Condon's 1945 Town Hall Jazz Concert; and an invigorating example of how Norvo sounded with Woody Herman's bop-addled Woodchoppers in 1946. Excellent vintage jazz, intelligently reissued.

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