All 20 of the Lucky Millinder Orchestra's valuable 1941-1942 recordings are on this recommended CD. Millinder himself was not a musician and his only vocal here is mostly shouting on "Ride, Red, Ride," but he was an effective bandleader and frontman. Other than a couple of World War II propaganda songs, the music on these sessions emphasizes swing, and several notable artists are featured. Sister Rosetta Tharpe (who also played excellent guitar) has six rollicking showcases, and among the soloists are clarinetist Buster Bailey, tenorman Stafford Simon, pianist Bill Doggett, and (on the final four songs) altoist Tab Smith and the rapidly emerging trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. On "Little John Special," Dizzy quotes directly from the as-yet-unwritten "Salt Peanuts." Other highlights include "Rock Daniel," "Apollo Jump," "Rock Me," "That's All," and "Mason Flyer."
To say that this limited-edition six-LP Mosaic box is overflowing with classics is an understatement. Included are a variety of small-group sessions (with overlapping personnel) from the early days of Blue Note. The Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet has five songs that are the only existing examples of Charlie Christian playing acoustic guitar; clarinetist Hall, Meade Lux Lewis (on celeste), and bassist Israel Crosby complete the unique group. The king of stride piano, James P. Johnson, is heard on eight solos; other combos are led by Johnson, Hall (who heads four groups in all), trumpeter Sidney DeParis, and trombonist Vic Dickenson (heard in a 1952 quartet with organist Bill Doggett).