Bessie Smith, even on the evidence of her earliest recordings, well deserved the title "Empress of the Blues" for in the 1920s there was no one in her league for emotional intensity, honest blues feeling, and power. The second of five volumes (the first four are two-CD sets) finds her accompaniment improving rapidly with such sympathetic sidemen as trombonist Charlie Green, cornetist Joe Smith, and clarinetist Buster Bailey often helping her out. However, they are overshadowed by Louis Armstrong, whose two sessions with Smith (nine songs in all) fall into the time period of this second set; particularly classic are their versions of "St. Louis Blues," "Careless Love Blues," and "I Ain't Goin' to Play Second Fiddle." Other gems on this essential set include "Cake Walkin' Babies From Home," "The Yellow Dog Blues," and "At the Christmas Ball."
In the 1970s, Bessie Smith's recordings were reissued on five double LPs. Her CD reissue series also has five volumes (the first four are double-CD sets) with the main difference being that the final volume includes all of her rare alternate takes (which were bypassed on LP). The first set (which, as with all of the CD volumes, is housed in an oversize box that includes an informative booklet) contains her first 38 recordings. During this early era, Bessie Smith had no competitors on record and she was one of the few vocalists who could overcome the primitive recording techniques; her power really comes through.
A thorough review of trumpeter Stu Pletcher's career, with recordings by the Yale Collegians, Red Norvo, Ben Pollack, Smith Ballew, as well as two privately-recorded piano solos by Pletcher. The detailed liner notes are by Tom Pletcher, Stu's son and a jazz musician in his own right. The 40 page booklet features photographs from the Pletcher family's archives.
Louis Armstrong's tenure as second cornetist to the great King Oliver is one of jazz history's legendary apprenticeships, on par with the one Miles Davis served with Charlie Parker or Stephane Grappelli's with Django Reinhardt. Sadly, only a handful of recordings survive from this formative period in Armstrong's career. This LP features 18 of King Oliver's 1923 recordings with Armstrong, as well as a bonus appendix consisting of seven tracks recorded in 1924 by the Red Onion Jazz Babies under Armstrong's sole leadership (and featuring, on one number, a very young Alberta Hunter). The performances are as red-hot as you'd expect, and include two King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton duets.
New horizons in historic jazz reissuing were revealed in 2005 when Jazz Oracle came out with a double-CD compendium of recordings made for about a dozen different labels between October 1924 and February 1933 in Vienna, Paris, and Berlin, all involving bandleader Lud Gluskin (1898-1989). Andreas Schmauder, apparently one of the world's leading Gluskin authorities, was asked to paw through literally hundreds of 78 rpm platters to designate the 48 titles included in this package, which is loaded with precious photographs and fascinating information. Gluskin first appears as a drummer with Paul Gason and His Versatile Orchestra. "Ain't She Sweet?" is performed by the Playboys, a Detroit-based band that would soon morph into an expanded and more versatile orchestra under Gluskin's direction.
Famously conducted the world premieres of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and other prominent works including Petrushka, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, and Debussy's Jeux. Monteux was the principal conductor of the French repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.