Bob Cats

The Complete Bob Cats, Vol. 1: In the Beginning

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Bob Crosby's best and most enjoyable working ensemble was a scaled-down version of his big band. Strongly steeped in traditional jazz and well-stocked with excellent improvisers, they were known to the world as the Bob Cats. Although other reissue labels have tried, Sounds of Yesteryear might have topped them all in 2008 by releasing the complete recordings of this solid little group in three installments. Vol. 1 hunkers down and concentrates upon sessions that took place between November 1937 and June 1939, which was an exceptionally good period for the Bob Cats. Crosby bore no weak links in his lineup. The trumpeters were Sterling Bose, Billy Butterfield, and Yank Lawson, and Warren Smith blew the trombone. The combined presence of reedmen Irving Fazola, Matty Matlock, and Eddie Miller was particularly rewarding, and certain susceptible old-time jazz heads will probably want to chase this disc down just to have Miller and Fazola on tap. Crosby's rhythm team was justifiably famous from coast to coast: pianist Bob Zurke, guitarist Nappy Lamare (who actually sings the words to the pleasingly archaic oriental foxtrot "Palesteena"), bassist Bob Haggart, and drummer Ray Bauduc. Special treats on this collection include vocals by Connee Boswell and Marion Mann and two performances ("Call Me a Taxi" and "I Hear You Talking") by "Four of the Bob Cats," an offshoot jam band composed of Miller, Zurke, Haggart, and Bauduc. This is extraordinarily friendly, accessible, and uplifting swing music with a staunch traditional jazz foundation. Ideal for gregarious gatherings involving huge quantities of free food and drink, with a separate table just for condiments.

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