Big Brass marks one of trumpeter Benny Bailey's earliest efforts as a leader, but it is also one of the best releases of his career. Joined by an all-star septet including Phil Woods, Julius Watkins, and Les Spann in the front line, plus a rhythm section consisting of Tommy Flanagan, Buddy Catlett, and Art Taylor, Bailey and his musicians shine in their interpretations of charts by Quincy Jones, Hale Smith, Oliver Nelson, and Tom McIntosh.
Most of the selections on the sixth and final Classics' CD to reissue all of Benny Carter's pre-war recordings as a leader feature the altoist's commercially unsuccessful big band. With such major soloists as the leader, trumpeter Jonah Jones and Sidney DeParis, trombonists Benny Morton and Jimmy Archey and pianist Sonny White, it is surprising that this orchestra did not make it. The October 23, 1940 recording session (which has three vocals by Roy Felton including one in which he is joined by the Mills Brothers) is quite rare while the opening set from eight days earlier is a small group date with Bill Coleman and Benny Morton that features a pair of W.C. Handy blues sung by Big Joe Turner. Excellent swing music overall.
The 1938 version of Benny Goodman & His Orchestra was still a strong ensemble, featuring Goodman, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman, Jess Stacy, Martha Tilton, and Dave Tough on drums, plus in the trio/quartet Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton. Gene Krupa might have been missed, but the ensemble still swung hard. Highlights of this chronological study include "Lullaby in Rhythm," "I Let a Song Go out of My Heart" (featuring Tilton), "Big John's Special," "Wrappin' It Up," and the quartet version of "Dizzy Spells."