The first half of this chronological release of Benny Goodman's 1931-1933 recordings is comprised of dance band performances from 1931 - 12 selections with vocals from Paul Small, Smith Ballew, and Dick Robertson that have little to recommend them except excellent musicianship. The jazz content is pretty low and even Goodman is not heard from much. This is from the era when the clarinetist earned his employment as a studio musician. The final ten numbers are from 1933 and are of greater interest. Trombonist/singer Jack Teagarden is well featured on six songs, Billie Holiday makes her hesitant recording debut on "Your Mother's Son-in-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch," and there are some fine solos along the way by both Jack and Charlie Teagarden, pianist Joe Sullivan, and Goodman. This is still Benny Goodman pre-history, for he would not attempt to lead a big band until 1934.
1933 found Duke Ellington going overseas for the first time, and the four songs (and a short interview) that he recorded in London are on this CD. Otherwise things stayed pretty consistent with no major personnel change (Otto Hardwick rejoined the band), Ivie Anderson proving to be a strong asset with her vocals, and such gems as "Merry Go Round," "Sophisticated Lady," "Drop Me Off in Harlem," and "I'm Satisfied" offering further proof that Ellington was the master of the three-minute record, making every bar count. As usual with the Classics series, all of the master takes are included on this CD (repeating songs if they were recorded on different days) but leaving off the alternate takes.
The great arranger Don Redman made Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in the mid-1920s the first real swing band, but during the swing era itself, Redman was little known to the general public. His big band (heard here on the second of three "complete" Classics CDs) failed to really catch on, although it stayed together throughout the 1930s. After recording a bunch of sessions in 1933, Redman's orchestra only cut two sides in Jan. 1934 and then none until May 1936. There are vocals on 22 of the 25 selections on this CD; of the three instrumentals, this version of "Christopher Columbus" might not be by Redman…
The first of three Don Redman Classics CDs consists of his orchestra's earliest sessions. Although Redman's big band never hit it as big as his former employers' (Fletcher Henderson and McKinney's Cotton Pickers), it was an impressive outfit, thanks to the leader's advanced arrangements. Among the key sidemen on these performances are trumpeters Red Allen (who is on the first two sessions) and Sidney DeParis, tenor saxophonist Robert Carroll, and pianist Horace Henderson. Highlights include "Chant of the Weed" (Redman's atmospheric theme song), "I Heard," "How'm I Doin'," and "Hot and Anxious." The main Don Redman CD to get.