Various Artists

The First Esquire All-American Jazz Concert

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This set has one of the great jazz concerts of all time, one that features the who's who of the jazz world of 1944. In 1943 Esquire magazine held the first Critics Poll and sponsored a concert featuring many of the winners (those in first or second place); the results are released on this two-fer in its entirety. The highpoint is a remarkable version of "I Got Rhythm" that has Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge on trumpets, trombonist Jack Teagarden, clarinetist Barney Bigard, Coleman Hawkins on tenor, xylophonist Red Norvo, pianist Art Tatum, guitarist Al Casey, bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Sid Catlett. In addition there are individual features and notable appearances by clarinetist Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton on vibes and drums, pianists Teddy Wilson and Jess Stacy, bassist Sid Weiss, drummer Morey Feld (the latter three on "Rachel's Dream" with Benny Goodman) and vocals from Billie Holiday and Mildred Bailey. The recording quality of the performances (some of which were broadcast over the radio) is generally quite good and getting to hear Tatum backing Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins's playing on "Basin Street Blues" are two of the many reasons to acquire this unique set.