Harry Edison & Buck Clayton, Red Allen, and Roy Eldridge: Swing Trumpet Kings
Verve's "Take 2" series has been reissuing collections of material in two disc sets for a few years now, and many of the selections in the series have been collections of the work of well known artists people like Maz Roach, Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker, and Joe Williams. However, recently, Verve has moved the focus of this series towards less well known, but artistically important artists and musical forms. Swing Trumpet Kings is one of the latest additions to the Take 2 series, and it follows in Verve's recent direction.
A reissue of three classic albums from the late 50's / early 60's, Swing Trumpet Kings shines the spotlight on four different trumpeters from jazz's golden era: Buck Clayton, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Red Allen, and Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge. Each man was a great trumpeter in his own right, but this collection brings them together as an example of "that" generation of trumpet men (All four were born within seven years of each other). While each had his own unique style, swing was predominant in all. From the authentic Dixieland of Allen, to the laid back swing of Clayton and Edison, to the energetic bop forerunner Eldridge, all of these men enjoyed successful careers, and the well deserved adoration of their peers.
Disc one starts with Harry Edison Swings Buck Clayton And Vice Versa. Edison and Clayton sound made for each other, accenting each other's musical ideas, and swinging in the same vein on tune after tune. "Memories For The Count" and "Critic's Delight" are highlights, bouncing along at an enjoyable pace, and allowing the two to flush out themes and exchange licks. Also impressive is the playing of tenor man Jimmy Forrest, especially on the jam type medley that closes the original album. Also included for this set are two additional alternate takes, offering shorter version of two of the songs.
>From Edison and Clayton's laid back swing the album turns toward the authentic New Orleans music of King Oliver as played by Red Allen. Twelve songs in all, Allen's album does the King proud, reproducing the atmosphere of Bourbon Street for the listener. As the liner notes point out, in the aftermath of Louis Armstrong's tremendous influence, particularly among New Orleans type trumpeters, Allen may have been a lone original, preferring non-symmetrical solo construction to Armstrong's well known symmetry. However, Allen does follow Armstrong's lead by offering up his own unique vocals on a few selections as well. Like Armstrong, Allen does not possess the traditional good voice, but with a set of New Orleans music, Allen's "down home" vocals are a perfect fit.
The final of the three albums is Roy Eldridge's Swing Goes Dixie. While Allen's music was authentic New Orleans, Eldridge's sounds more like Dixieland night in New York City the theme is there, and so is the style, but Eldridge's troupe spice up the numbers with some more energetic (and quicker paced) playing. The famous "Royal Garden Blues" is well done, with a slightly quicker pace that grows ever so subtly as the song moves forward. Eldridge is wonderful as the leader, blowing with the best of them, yet adding his own unique styling on the solos. On "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," it's easy for the listener to hear Eldridge's influence on a young Dizzy Gillespie, and on "Bugle Call Rag," Eldridge takes the old familiar to a new level.
Overall, this collection is a great pick-up for the trumpet fan, the Dixieland fan, or those interested in the historical development of today's jazz. While today's jazz is highly recorded and seems to be dominated by "kids" barely old enough to have cut their proverbial teeth, this collection spotlights four jazzmen, with all that is good and bad with that title. Reissuing this material, Verve does jazz fans everywhere a favor. Do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself.