This well-conceived CD has 20 of the most rewarding recordings by Andy Kirk's Orchestra. Ending a five-year period when they were off record, the big band (which had recently relocated to New York from Kansas City) showed that it could outswing most of its competitiors, due largely to Mary Lou Williams arrangements and piano playing, the underrated tenor Dick Wilson, and a strong group sound. Pha Terrell's high-pitched vocals helped the band to catch on commercially, but fortunately, he is almost absent from this collection (singing only "What's Your Story, Morning Glory"), which, with the exception of seven selections from 1939-41 (including two small-group numbers led by Mary Lou Williams), concentrates on 1936-37. Among the many highlights are "Walkin' and Swingin'," "Froggy Bottom," "The Lady Who Swings the Band," "Mess-A-Stomp," "Mary's Idea" and "Ring Dem Bells." Highly recommended to listeners who, in skipping the Classics series, want a strong sampling of Andy Kirk's music rather than every single title.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow