Three unrelated groups that recorded for the tiny Continental label in 1945 are featured on this generous 25-selection CD. Clarinetist Edmond Hall's Café Society Orchestra is a sextet that includes trumpeter Mouse Randolph and pianist Ellis Larkins. Mary Lou Williams' haunting "Lonely Moments" is easily the most memorable of their four performances. Clyde Hart's All-Stars has a rather notable personnel that includes trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, altoist Charlie Parker, and tenor saxophonist Don Byas. Four numbers (plus an alternate take) are features for blues/vaudevillian singer Rubberlegs Williams (who accidentally drank a pot of Charlie Parker's coffee, which was laced with the upper benzedrine). Williams gets more and more hyper throughout his unintentionally humorous performances. The other four songs from this set are swing tunes featuring trombonist Trummy Young's singing,but there are some brief spots for Bird and Diz. The remaining dozen performances are by bassist Slam Stewart's quintet, which consists of vibraphonist Red Norvo, pianist Johnny Guarnieri (who does a Fats Waller vocal imitation on "Honeysuckle Rose"), the modern guitarist Bill DeArango (replaced by Chuck Wayne on the final four numbers), and drummer Morey Feld. Overall, this is the most rewarding of the groups, hinting at bop but essentially playing swing; highlights include "The Voice of the Turtle," "Jingle Bells," "The One That Got Away," and "Talkin' Back."
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow