Tenor saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet (1922-2004) revolutionized popular music during the years immediately following the Second World War by blowing his horn with a passion and intensity that has long been recognized as a prime element in the development of R&B and rock & roll. Released in 1998, this excellent Best of Jazz compilation maps his progress as bluesman, balladeer, cutting-edge improviser, sideman, and bandleader during the years 1942-1947. The chronologically stacked survey opens with "Flying Home," Illinois' famously hot feature with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, then delves into many obscure corners of the postwar jazz scene in order to illustrate Jacquet's amazing versatility. "It Had to Be You," for example, finds him sitting in with the King Cole Quintette in February 1944, while "Blues, Pt. 2" was excerpted from a Jazz at the Philharmonic jam with Nat Cole recorded five months later by Norman Granz. "Henderson Romp" (composed by Fletcher Henderson's little brother Horace) was recorded for Capitol Records by drummer Big Sid Catlett and his band. In July 1945 Illinois Jacquet & His All Stars revisited "Flying Home" in two parts designed to fit on flip sides of a 10" 78-rpm record. Tracks six through nine were waxed for the Apollo label in Hollywood on August 2, 1945, using a band that included a young bassist -- also a graduate of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra -- by the name of Charles Mingus. "Illinois Stomp" was recorded about three weeks later by "the Jacque Rabbits," a group that included tenor saxophonist Tom Archia, pianist Sir Charles Thompson, and drummer Johnny Otis. "High Tide," "The King," and "Mutton Leg" are wicked examples of how Illinois Jacquet sounded as featured soloist in the Count Basie Orchestra during the year 1946; other examples from that year are the ballad "She's Funny That Way" and "Minor Romp" (aka "Jacquet and Coat"), a Benzedrine-flavored bounce issued on the Savoy label under the heading of Emmett Berry's Hot Six. Seven selections from 1947 vividly illustrate the teeming crosscurrents of modern music during that tumultuous year. Key participants include trumpeters Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, Joe Newman, and Russell Jacquet; trombonists Dicky Wells and J.J. Johnson; pianist Sir Charles Thompson; and gutbucket bop baritone saxophonist Leo Parker. This is a superb anthology of classic sides by that never-to-be-underestimated master of the tenor sax, Illinois Jacquet.
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