This is an attractive eight-CD set, whose discs are also available as eight separate releases, that could have been a great reissue but settled for being merely quite good. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first jazz recording, RCA released a disc apiece covering each of the past eight decades. In listening to the music straight through, one becomes aware of RCA's strengths and weaknesses as a jazz label.
Over the course of time, Heavy Sugar has been the title of a song, the name of a radio station, an independent movie and the primary ingredient for a rapturous recipe. How fitting it is that this latter description also epitomizes the ingredients that go to make up Heavy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New Orleans R&B. Just think, if the celebrity chefs of New Orleans were to whip up Heavy Sugar until the peaks start to form, then the hostesses on Bourbon Street would go that little bit further and add any flavour necessary to achieve a creamy finish.
Following the critical acclaim and enthusiastic response to Heavy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New Orleans R&B, compiler Stuart Colman has dug deep into the city’s unique recording legacy to bring about a sumptuous second helping. In addition to the requisite sourcings, the net has been cast wider still in order to focus on material gleaned from such picayune outlets as Rustone, Pontchartrain, Athens, Winner and Spinett. There is a very good reason for this.
Two dozen rare B-sides from Stax Records’ “blue” period, many reissued for the first time. An enormous and impressive undertaking, “The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-68” box set was issued in 1991. While pleased with its content, hardcore collectors were nevertheless disappointed that it was not as “complete” as it claimed to be, as it featured all the A-sides and only selected B-sides. While highly welcome, its release left more than 100 of approximately 225 “blue period” Stax and Volt B-sides un-reissued in any form. Several of those sides have since featured on CD compilations, either as individual tracks here and there or on Kent’s recent “The Other Side Of The Trax”, but that still left many awaiting reissue. Fortunately, the success of “The Other Side Of The Trax” has warranted this second volume. The 24 tracks here span almost the whole of Stax Records’ blue period, as far back as when the label was still called Satellite.
The last of the pianoless quartet albums that Gerry Mulligan recorded in the 1950s is one of the best, featuring the complementary trumpet of Art Farmer, bassist Bill Crow, and drummer Dave Bailey along with the baritonist/leader. This recording is a little skimpy on playing time but makes every moment count. Virtually every selection is memorable, with "What Is There to Say," "Just in Time," "Festive Minor," "My Funny Valentine," and "Utter Chaos" being the high points. Highly recommended both to Mulligan collectors and to jazz listeners who are just discovering the great baritonist.