Phil Napoleon

Live at Nick's NYC

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Phil Napoleon is one of the unsung heroes of jazz history. He was arguably the first trumpeter based in New York to swing, recording excellent small-group jazz with an attractive tone and a legato style as early as 1921, a time when most other brassmen in the city were emphasizing staccato phrases. This particular CD (previously unreleased material put out in 1996) features Phil Napoleon and his 1949-50 sextet from a variety of live club performances. With the exception of the fine drummer Tony Spargo (a member 30 years earlier of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band), the sidemen are obscure with clarinetist Phil Olivela a main soloist and trombonist Andy Russo mostly sticking to colorful work behind the other players. Of the eighteen tracks, all but seven are medleys comprised of two-four songs and the emphasis throughout is on ensembles. Napoleon, who only takes a few solos, offers a strong and lyrical melodic lead, showing that he knew how to say a lot in a short period of time. The performances are nostalgic (most of the songs date from the 1920s), quite danceable and swinging. The only lowpoint is Spargo's occasional whistling (which is far offmike) although he makes up for it with a hot kazoo solo.

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