Stuff Smith

The Complete Verve Stuff Smith Sessions

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It is a shame that Stuff Smith did not live to see the revival of interest in swing violin due to his premature death in 1967, almost three decades prior to the passing of fellow violinist Stephane Grappelli. Almost all of Smith's recordings languished out of print until a two-CD set finally appeared on Verve, soon followed by this more complete four-CD Mosaic collection of Smith's recordings for the label, which adds three completely unissued sessions and five additional previously unreleased tracks. The first two studio dates were scheduled for release but never put out by Verve, yet the music is simply astonishing. Smith is in top form throughout all ten sessions. The supporting cast is tremendous: pianists include Jimmy Jones, Carl Perkins, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly, Shirley Horn (who was overlooked and credit was originally given to John Eaton, who likely appears on two tracks), and Paul Smith. Bassists include Red Callendar, Curtis Counce, Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, and Milt Hinton; other important musicians are Dizzy Gillespie, Barney Kessel, Alvin Stoller, J. C. Heard, Kenny Burrell, and fellow violinist Ray Nance. Smith plays quite a few enjoyable originals (including his blazing "Hillcrest," the very catchy "Calypso," and the exotic "Desert Sands"), but he also covers an extensive collection of Gershwin songs and other standards from some of the best composers of the Great American Songbook, and classic songs from the playbooks of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. While some tracks are clearly stronger performances than others, there is not one song that won't be devoured eagerly by fans of Smith's swinging jazz violin. The detailed liner notes and rare session photographs add to the considerable value of this limited-edition boxed set, which should be considered an essential acquisition by fans of swing.

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