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Various Artists

Let's Jump! Swingin' Humdingers From Modern Records

Format: CD   Release Date: 12/09/2003
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The Modern label was one of the Los Angeles independent companies most important in the transition from the swing jazz of the 1940s to the small-combo RB of the early '50s and the eventual rock roll of the mid-'50s. Many single-artist and various-artist Modern compilations, many reissued on Ace, explore its large catalog of music covering this large range. Where Let's Jump! Swingin' Humdingers From Modern Records has an advantage over many other such anthologies is in its somewhat higher quality than the norm and, if only relatively speaking, a sharper focus to this grouping of dance tracks. These 26 songs, all from the late '40s to the mid-'50s (three previously unissued, two of those alternate takes), are the kind of vocal and instrumental workouts -- almost all up-tempo, with the occasional slow-grinder thrown in -- geared toward filling the dancefloor, both at the time and during the swing revival. Often such reissues get monotonous due to the similar rhythms and chord progressions, but Let's Jump! avoids some of those pitfalls by focusing, to a large degree anyway, on the jazzy end of Modern's output, rather than their standard RB/blues crossover releases. Unless you're a serious collector on the order of Billy Vera (who wrote the liner notes), you'd have a hard time identifying more than a few of the names; the most renowned of whom are Jimmy Witherspoon and the Benny Carter Orchestra with Ben Webster. Gene Phillips, Joe Lutcher, Marvin Johnny, and the Flairs (with Richard Berry on lead vocals) might also ring some bells, and some of these other cats played with star performers, but the majority of this is serious vault-digging. After all such details are summarized, though, it's ultimately a solid collection of various shades of the gradual jazz-to-RB crossover, sometimes verging on pure bop (Howard McGhee's "Groovin' High" with Teddy Edwards), at others on vocal RB edging toward rock roll (Marvin Johnny's "Tick Tock"), and at other times opting for straight-ahead, infectious call-response jump blues (Oscar McLollie's "All That Oil in Texas" is a screwball highlight). What they all have in common is that they're all high-spirited, witty, and danceable -- at their worst good generic fare, at their best smoking. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi

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