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Digging up a treasure from jazz history

This tape offers consistent quality, and some rare Nat 'King' Cole and Sinatra dating back to 1945

Moonlight Jazz Moods
Times Music
Rs 100

Some time ago I reviewed another Times album called The Best of Big Band Swing. The current album could be said to cover similar ground, since much of the music is swing. But the numbers selected here are mostly slow-paced pieces, as ''moonlight moods'' indicates. More importantly, this is a far superior collection: much more consistent high quality and free of the irritating obvious mistakes in identifying the numbers that afflicted the earlier album.

This of course makes it more difficult for me to single out a few pieces for special attention. Considerations of history and rarity must come to my help in the selection. Starting with the first number, Coleman Hawkins's 1938 version of Body and Soul, in which Hawkins improvised and radically altered even the basic theme, anticipating part of the revolution that was be-bop.

Another historically significant piece is Slam slam blues by Red Norvo and his Selected Sextet, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Flip Phillips. Norvo was an early vibraphonists of the swing age. The presence of the inventors of be-bop, here already showing unmistakable signs of the invention that was to be formally born later, besides a smooth tenor saxman of swing, greatly strengthens Norvo's supporting cast with a series of brilliant solos.

One can't ignore Duke Ellington in any collection, and so it is here. All too soon from the early 1940s is a study in contrasting tone colours, between the soft and gentle trombone of Lawrence Brown and the vigorous tenor sax of Ben Webster. Webster takes the brunt of the solos while Brown is in the forefront on the theme.

Any listener may be forgiven for thinking Laura an example of the elegant piano-playing of Oscar Peterson. In fact, it's the Nat "King" Cole trio before Cole forsook jazz for a lucrative career in pop, here showing the astonishing skill that inspired Peterson, with the kind of tight co-ordination that Peterson's trios have always emulated.

Cole turns up anonymously again on Sweet Lorraine by the Metronome All-Stars with Frank Sinatra. The All-Stars were the recipients of Metronome magazine's awards for the year in various jazz categories. Sinatra for vocals and Cole for piano are joined by Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax, Charlie Shavers on trumpet and probably Johnny Hodges on alto sax, the year being 1945 if memory serves me right. All these and other treasures await anyone who picks up this album.


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