Claude Hopkins

Swing Time

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Claude Hopkins is best-known for being a powerful stride pianist who led a big band in the 1930s; he is also known for his solo records of 1969-72. Barely on records at all from 1941-59, Hopkins cut three albums for Swingville from 1960-63; the second and third are reissued in full on this 1999 CD. The most surprising aspect to these combo dates is that Hopkins hardly strides at all and comes across as a Teddy Wilson-inspired swing pianist. Much of the time he is in the background, with the success of the sessions really due to the fine playing of the horns. Trombonist Vic Dickenson and tenor saxophonist Budd Johnson play at the high level one would expect on the Swing Time set, with the main revelation being the obscure trumpeter Bobby Johnson, a veteran of Erskine Hawkins' Orchestra, who holds his own with the stars. Hopkins' "Crying My Heart Out for You" from this date is well worth reviving again. The music from the other Swingville album, Let's Jam, gives tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate an opportunity to play his underrated clarinet on "Late Evening" and has several opportunities for the largely forgotten swing trumpeter Joe Thomas to show how lyrical a soloist he was. This CD is recommended even if Hopkins' role is much more minor than expected.

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