The Mills Brothers learned the tradition of barbershop quartet harmony in their hometown of Piqua, OH, perfected it in vaudeville during the 1920s, and used it as the foundation for fascinating innovations in jazz singing in New York during the 1930s. They were enormously popular during the 1940s and early '50s as wholesome interpreters of easygoing pop tunes. The Mills Brothers laid the foundation for dozens of fine vocal groups, including the Ink Spots, the Ravens, the Cats & the Fiddle, the King Cole Trio, the Robins, the Midnighters, the Moonglows, and the Persuasions. Jasmine's 1999 anthology of the Mills Brothers, Their Original & Greatest Hits, brought together 23 examples of their best work recorded between October 12, 1931, and February 20, 1952. Mostly accompanied by one acoustic guitar, they blend with Bing Crosby on "Dinah" and are backed by a beefy big band on "Be My Life's Companion." Although the Mills Brothers' slow and relaxing approach is dependably comforting, it is the jazz-based and rapidly scat-sung material that really knocks people out. This collection's most exciting and at times dazzling performances are "Tiger Rag," "St. Louis Blues," "Bugle Call Rag," "I Heard," "Nobody's Sweetheart," and their marvelous rendition of Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)."
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
feat: John Scott Trotter