Various Artists

RCA Victor Jazz: The First Half-Century - The Twenties Through the Sixties

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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow

RCA has long had an up-and-down relationship with jazz and that is reflected in this very interesting five-CD boxed set drawn completely from their archives. Each disc focuses on a specific decade and the producers did an excellent job of picking representative recordings. The 1920s and '30s are covered particularly well (with 23 selections on each disc); virtually every major name is heard at their prime. The 1940s disc also contains many valuable recordings (although RCA had been slow to record bop), but by the '50s and '60s RCA was not in the forefront of discovering up-and-coming artists; there are only hints of the avant-garde and many of the giants (Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk to name three) never made it into the label's studios. However, even in the later decades, a variety of great veterans and modernists did make significant recordings for the label and there is not a loser among the 96 recordings. Overall this reissue gives one a superb overview of RCA jazz activities through the years (from Coleman Hawkins's "Body and Soul" to Sonny Rollins's "The Bridge") and is recommended to all jazz historians along with beginners just starting to explore this classic music.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Jelly Roll Morton 03:09 Amazon
2 Johnny Dodds 03:11 Amazon
3 Duke Ellington 02:52 Amazon
4 Fletcher Henderson 03:03 Amazon
5 King Oliver 03:08 Amazon
6 McKinney's Cotton Pickers 03:17 Amazon
7 Charlie Johnson 03:41 Amazon
8 James P. Johnson 03:10 Amazon
9 Fats Waller 02:46 Amazon
10 Earl Hines 02:57 Amazon
11
Jones & Collins Astoria Hot Eight 02:50 Amazon
12 Original Dixieland Jazz Band 03:08 Amazon
13 New Orleans Rhythm Kings 02:44 Amazon
14 Bix Beiderbecke 02:55 Amazon
15 Red Nichols 03:05 Amazon
16 Eddie Lang / Joe Venuti 02:25 Amazon
17 Benny Goodman / Ben Pollack 03:01 Amazon
18 Bubber Miley / Duke Ellington Orchestra 03:09 Amazon
19 Henry "Red" Allen 03:22 Amazon
20 Coleman Hawkins 03:28 Amazon
21 Pee Wee Russell 03:17 Amazon
22 Eddie Condon / Jack Teagarden 03:28 Amazon
23 Bennie Moten 02:33 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Louis Armstrong 03:23 Amazon
2 Duke Ellington 02:57 Amazon
3 Count Basie 03:23 Amazon
4 Fletcher Henderson 03:18 Amazon
5 Benny Goodman 03:08 Amazon
6 Jimmie Lunceford 02:38 Amazon
7
Georgia Tom 03:06 Amazon
8
XYZ
Earl Hines 02:19 Amazon
9 Charlie Barnet 03:24 Amazon
10 Artie Shaw 03:07 Amazon
11 Billie Holiday / Artie Shaw 03:11 Amazon
12 Benny Goodman / Teddy Wilson 03:28 Amazon
13 Benny Goodman / Harry James 03:03 Amazon
14 Roy Eldridge / Gene Krupa 02:55 Amazon
15 Lionel Hampton 03:03 Amazon
16 Benny Carter / Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra 02:46 Amazon
17 Mildred Bailey 02:59 Amazon
18 Fats Waller 03:06 Amazon
19 Sidney Bechet / Tommy Ladnier 03:34 Amazon
20 Muggsy Spanier 03:15 Amazon
21 Bud Freeman 02:44 Amazon
22 Bunny Berigan 04:43 Amazon
23 Coleman Hawkins 03:01 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Jimmy Blanton / Duke Ellington 03:14 Amazon
2 Cootie Williams 03:17 Amazon
3 Duke Ellington Orchestra / Ben Webster 03:10 Amazon
4 Rex Stewart 03:03 Amazon
5 Johnny Hodges 02:55 Amazon
6 Louis Armstrong 03:37 Amazon
7 Roy Eldridge / Artie Shaw 03:03 Amazon
8 Dizzy Gillespie 03:04 Amazon
9 Charlie Parker 02:39 Amazon
10 Kenny Clarke 02:51 Amazon
11 Coleman Hawkins 03:01 Amazon
12 Lennie Tristano 02:54 Amazon
13 Billy Eckstine / Earl Hines 03:07 Amazon
14 Count Basie 02:38 Amazon
15 Tommy Dorsey 03:27 Amazon
16 Artie Shaw 05:00 Amazon
17 Benny Carter 03:19 Amazon
18 Sidney Bechet 02:45 Amazon
19 Django Reinhardt 02:35 Amazon
20 Mary Lou Williams 02:50 Amazon
21 Art Tatum 02:51 Amazon
22 Erroll Garner 02:56 Amazon
23 Oscar Peterson 02:58 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick