Bobbing on the surface of a posthumous Red Nichols discography that teems with well-crafted compilations, Living Era's Centenary Issue tribute album That's a Bargain! might well be the best of them all. In addition to some of the tastiest sides ever cut by the Five Pennies and the Charleston Chasers, there are three tracks recorded in January of 1927 by Red & Miff's Stompers, an updated version of a fine little band with whom Nichols and trombonist Miff Mole had made excellent records for the Edison label a few months earlier. Note the presence of dignified pianist Arthur Schutt and master percussionist Vic Berton, who did wonderful things with the timpani but also employed a vibraphone identified as a "harpophone" (he used it to generate accents like a glockenspiel). Indeed this part of the Red Nichols story provides posterity with much of Berton's best work on record. That's more important than you might think, as he was the very first person to play jazz on the kettledrum. This album's collective lineup of great jazz players is astonishing to behold, for here are guitarists Eddie Lang, Carl Kress, and Dick McDonough; post-Berton drummers Chauncey Morehouse and Gene Krupa; brass men Nichols, Mole, Jack and Charlie Teagarden, Glenn Miller, Dudley Fosdick, and Wingy Manone; and reed players Benny Goodman, Pee Wee Russell, Jimmy Dorsey, Adrian Rollini, Fud Livingston, Babe Russin, and Larry Binyon. These names are essential components in a constellation of hot jazz as it was played in New York between the years 1926 and 1930. This marvelous album closes with the only two vocals: a golly-gee treatment of "I Got Rhythm" by Dick Robertson and a very hip handling of "Corrine Corrina" by singing trumpeter Wingy Manone.
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