1944 1952

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aec.cls1307.2 8/26/03 New
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    1944 1952 Classics
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Review

Review Text One thing about these chronological compilations: if the featured musician only rarely acted as a bandleader, what listeners get is a core sample of nearly every recording date he happened to be in on. In the case of Texas tenor Budd Johnson, the people at Classics decided to begin his story with sessions waxed when he was 34 years of age and had been making records as a sideman for more than ten years. This is a pity, as a thorough survey could have begun with his bizarre vocal on Louis Armstrong's "Sweet Sue" (1933), then sampled his work with Lionel Hampton and Earl Hines, up through 1943. That would have lent context and background to this grab bag of primal bebop and R&B, designated as "the first volume of the recordings of Budd Johnson." Nevertheless, this segment of Johnson's career is exciting and full of surprises. Clyde Hart's Hot Seven, recording for Savoy in December of 1944, included legendary trumpeter Benny Harris and the wild alto sax of Herbie Fields. A Manor date led by squealing trumpeter Al Killian is extra solid due to the presence of Ellington's baritone, Harry Carney, who seems to enjoy weaving a bit of thunder into an already smoking ensemble. J.C. Heard & His Cafe Society Orchestra deliver four very concise, classy studies in boppish swing. George Treadwell's muted trumpet is notably attractive, and Johnson is able to shout or soothe as needed. James Charles Heard was a discerning artist, and his band's interpretation of Ellington's "Azure" is breathtakingly lovely. Of the three sides recorded in March of 1946 for the Hot Record Society by trombonist Dicky Wells & His Big Seven, "Bed Rock" is the cooker, but is somewhat upstaged by "Opera in Blue," a rhapsody built entirely around Johnson's lyrically inspired tenor.Johnson led his own session in June of 1947 for the obscure Cyclone label. Included here are apparently the only two surviving sides. The tenor is very expressive on "My Heart's Doin' Time (For You)," and Mary Stafford belts out a smart little piece of blues on the flip side. A few months later, crooner Leslie Scott fronted a band with strings and a handful of jazz musicians, including drummer Denzil Best and a very sensuously laid-back Johnson. These sentimental numbers are oddly comforting, and fortunately the strings are not obtrusive. Johnson seems to have specialized in getting signed with small-time labels. In February 1951, working for Faith Records, he can be heard leading an all-star ensemble including Howard McGhee, J.J. Johnson, Cecil Payne, Kenny Drew, Oscar Pettiford, and Kansas Fields. Freddie Jackson sings a tough take on the blues called "Sometime I Feel Like Leaving Home," the band bounces through something called "Grooving in Birdland," and Johnson completely dominates the ballad "Talk of the Town." In March of 1952, Budd Johnson's All-Stars backed vocalist Johnny King on a pair of Louis Jordan-style numbers issued on the MGM label. The leader adapted unflinchingly to every stylistic trend during these years, always delivering gutsy, substantial solos. Here is an intriguing glimpse of one working tenor's professional evolution during a period notable for its many cultural transitions. ~ arwulf arwulf

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Smack That Mess - 3:05
  2. 2. Dee Dee's Dance - 3:03
  3. 3. Little Benny (King Kong) - 3:43
  4. 4. Shoot the Arrow to Me Cupid - 3:05
  5. 5. You're the One - 3:03
  6. 6. Goin' Down - 3:43
  7. 7. Walk - 3:03
  8. 8. Heard But Not Seen - 3:41
  9. 9. Azure - 3:52
  10. 10. Bouncing for Barney - 3:57
  11. 11. Bed Rock - 3:53
  12. 12. Opera in Blue - 3:02
  13. 13. Drag Nasty (The Walk) - 3:52
  14. 14. My Heart's Doing Time - 3:46
  15. 15. I Just Can't Find That Kind - 3:50
  16. 16. So Long - 3:14
  17. 17. Blue and Sentimental - 3:04
  18. 18. Sometime I Feel Like Leaving Home - 3:12
  19. 19. Grooving in Birdland - 3:11
  20. 20. I'm All Alone - 3:10
  21. 21. Talk of the Town - 3:55
  22. 22. Where Were You? - 2:12
  23. 23. Way Downtown at the Bottom of the Hill - 2:25

Product Details

Release Date
8/26/03 

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