Anyone who is seriously into jazz can tell you that Fantasy has, over the years, acquired some of the most important labels in the history of post-swing, post-World War II jazz -- labels like Prestige, Pablo, Riverside, and Contemporary. But even someone who has an extensive knowledge of jazz may not know about some of the more obscure (but still valuable) jazz catalogs that Fantasy owns. This compilation, which spans 1941-1955, spotlights several of those lesser-known labels, including Debut, Period, Counterpoint, Esoteric, and Seeco. Founded by Charles Mingus in 1952, Debut is the least obscure of the bunch. Debut, which folded in 1957, boasted its share of bop heavyweights -- and this CD paints an attractive picture of the Debut catalog with '50s recordings by Miles Davis ("Nature Boy"), Thad Jones ("I'll Remember April"), and Kenny Dorham ("Ruby, My Dear"). Meanwhile, the non-Debut material ranges from Stan Getz and Al Haig's lyrical 1949 version of "Pennies From Heaven" (from the Seeco catalog) to Roy Eldridge and Flip Phillips embracing "How High the Moon" in 1947. Most of the CD has a post-war bop focus, but there is one exception: a 1941 recording of guitarist Charlie Christian providing an eight-minute blowing tune at Minton's Playhouse in New York. Titled "Swing to Bop," the tune comes from the Esoteric catalog and is downright fascinating. For one thing, "Swing to Bop" contains the longest Christian solo ever recorded -- and also, the pianist is a 23-year-old Thelonious Monk, who was a few years away from becoming a distinctive bebop innovator. In 1941, Monk was still playing swing and had yet to develop the angular approach that put him on the map. Ranging from decent to excellent, this CD demonstrates that there's more to Fantasy's Debut/Period: Original Jazz Classics series than celebrated labels like Prestige and Riverside.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson