During 1939-40, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman tried unsuccessfully to keep together his Summa Cum Laude Orchestra, an excellent Dixieland-ish octet that included trumpeter Max Kaminsky, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell and valve trombonist Brad Gowans (who provided many of the arrangements). In addition to four instrumental sessions, the band backed singers Teddy Grace, Buddy Clark and Doris Rhodes on dates that are reissued in full on this collector's set from IAJRC. Best are the four Grace titles, but these are also available with most of her other work on a highly recommended Timeless CD. The four Buddy Clark performances (plus an alternate take) have some nice moments from pianist Jess Stacy, but are otherwise fairly routine. The same can be said for the extensive Doris Rhodes date, four songs augmented by three alternate takes and three breakdowns. Collectors will want this well-conceived album, particularly for the contributions of Freeman and Russell, but it is far from essential for more general listeners, who are advised to get the Teddy Grace CD instead.
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