Live from the Blue Gardens

Red Norvo

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Live from the Blue Gardens Review

by Scott Yanow

Red Norvo's 1942 big band only recorded two songs and was otherwise completely undocumented. However, a tape of a radio broadcast was saved by trombonist Eddie Bert through the years and released on CD in 1992 by Music Masters. Although, other than Bert and singer Helen Ward, Norvo's sidemen are quite obscure, he had a very interesting band throughout this period; the largest he ever led. Norvo (who plays xylophone here but would switch permanently to vibraphone the next year) leads an orchestra comprised of three trumpets, three trombones, five reeds (including Sam Spumberg who tripled on tenor, oboe and English horn), a standard rhythm section and up to four vocalists. With colorful arrangements provided by Johnny Thompson, Norvo and his quietly powerful crew perform a variety of standards from the era plus five originals by the leader. This appealing and rather historical set is easily recommended to swing collectors.

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