In 1928, Paul Whiteman bolted to Columbia from Victor, feeling threatened by the artistic ambitions of his labelmate, rival Nat Shilkret, and also wishing to follow a favorite studio manager (Eddie King) who had recently made a similar move. The high hopes of Columbia and Whiteman came to naught, however -- the period was not a success for anyone involved. Though the label spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing him, and attempted to crown Whiteman with the two-million-dollar film The King of Jazz, he recorded few popular sides before returning to Victor in 1930. And though hot jazz fireplugs Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer made the switch to Columbia with Whiteman, these years weren't high points for the world of jazz either; few of the musicians were allowed to solo, and most of the numbers recorded were period fluff. To make matters yet worse, the Collectors' Choice compilation The Best of Paul Whiteman: The Columbia Years doesn't even include the best of these years, making for a disc with virtually nothing to recommend to fans of either jazz or society-band music of the '20s. Trumbauer briefly peeks out during a sprightly runthrough of "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)," and period sensation Vaughn DeLeath has a pair of average features, but there's little of interest on staid novelties like "What D'Ya Say?," "Song of the Congo," or "Japanese Mammy" (Beiderbecke reportedly makes an appearance on the latter). Bing Crosby, as part of the swinging vocal group the Rhythm Boys, doesn't appear anywhere here, despite recording several sides with Whiteman during the era. (More notoriously, Crosby was also a no-show for his planned film debut, drying out in prison from a drunk that saw him crash a friend's car.) Even odder, Whiteman's biggest hits -- and most solid performances -- of the Columbia years, "Body and Soul" and "Lover, Come Back to Me," aren't here either. Perhaps nostalgia seekers could find something to entertain them on this collection, but anyone interested in musical quality, and that only of the generalized sort found in the music of a crossover artist like Whiteman, is advised to look elsewhere.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush