Harry James

Trumpet After Midnight

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This 12-song album was recorded across a three-year period of very heavy activity, both on stage and in the studio, for Harry James and his band. The best of the material, which constitutes the lion's share of what's here, dates from late 1953. What is lacking, amid some fine musicianship, is excitement -- compare the rendition of "Moanin' Low" here to the performance on Harry James at the Hollywood Palladium, done a month later, and one sees the point of recording in concert -- just in the opening bars, the piece swings and surges and romps and stomps in ways that the studio version here never really gets near, and if the live version has a few recording flaws, so be it; it runs circles around this cut. Still, one doesn't want to fault James and company too badly on this point, as they were delivering in the studio precisely what Columbia Records wanted (or thought it wanted) when they cut these tracks. And the musicianship is good enough here to justify a listen by admirers of great trumpet playing or good big-band music. But it's better to get on the Collectables CD, which pairs it with the Palladium album.

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