Since the mid-'80s, Barrence Whitfield has dedicated his life to reminding people that rock & roll and rhythm & blues are not separate but equal institutions, but healthy branches of the same tree; on-stage or in the studio, Whitfield howls vintage R&B tunes with the fury of a hot-wired rock band, and belts out vintage-style rock with a healthy portion of swagger and soul. In Whitfield's world, it's all loud and furious, and makes you want to dance, and really, who doesn't want some of that in their life? After a detour through other projects, Whitfield resurrected the Savages in 2011, and 2015's Under the Savage Sky, the group's third album since returning to duty, stands proudly alongside mid-'80s landmarks like Dig Yourself and Ow! Ow! Ow! as a master class in souped-up and full-bodied roadhouse rocking.
This exciting CD has 20 diverse performances that were originally produced by Leonard Feather for the Victor label during 1946-47. The first eight selections feature various versions of Esquire's All-American Award Winners and have some unique combinations of musicians. "Long Long Journey" was the first record to match together Duke Ellington (who verbally introduces the song) and Louis Armstrong, and on "Snafu" Armstrong takes a surprisingly modern solo that hints at bebop. Trumpeter Charlie Shavers creates a remarkable improvisation on "The One That Got Away," ltoist Johnny Hodges plays beautifully on "Gone with the Wind" and other key players include tenor saxophonist Don Byas, trumpeter Buck Clayton, trombonist J.J. Johnson and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. In addition, there are selections featuring trombonist Jack Teagarden, the 52nd Street All-Stars (with Shavers, Hawkins and tenorman Allan Eager), the tenor of Lucky Thompson, trumpeter Neal Hefti, altoist Benny Carter, singer Mildred Bailey and solo piano records by Art Tatum and Erroll Garner. The mid-to-late '40s were a particularly rich period for jazz and this highly recommended CD is filled with gems.