The swing era may have been at its height during the time covered by this CD (the sixth of 12 put out by the Classics label that reissue all of Cab Calloway's 1930-42 recordings) but the colorful vocalist held onto his audience and remained a household name. With such soloists as Ben Webster or Chu Berry on tenor, trumpeters Shad Collins and Lammar Wright and a rhythm section including guitarist Danny Barker and bassist Milt Hinton, Calloway had a particularly strong (if generally overlooked) orchestra. Among the more memorable selections of the 24 included on this CD are "Swing, Swing, Swing," "She's Tall, She's Tan, She's Terrific," "Bugle Blues" and "Hi-De-Ho Romeo."
Having spent years showcasing his own personality while diminishing the importance of the instrumentalists in his bands, Cab Calloway groveled during the early '50s, resorting to every imaginable gimmick and often sounding positively desperate. Two rather forced duets with Eugenie Baird employ exactly the same material as Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page were using during that same time period. These somewhat irritating covers are as different as can be from the fine artistry of Pearl and Page. "Rooming House Boogie" actually rocks, and Sam Taylor has a good hot solo. An overbearing tribute to Joe Louis is followed by the misogynistic "Your Voice"…
Cab Calloway had one of his strongest orchestras during the period covered by this CD, the eighth of 12 put out by the European Classics label that reissue all of his studio recordings from 1930-42. Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie joined the band by the time of its Aug. 30, 1939 session and he has several short solos on these tracks in addition to being well-featured on the adventurous "Pickin' the Cabbage." In addition, the great tenor Chu Berry gets plenty of solo space, the impressive rhythm section (with guitarist Danny Barker, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Cozy Cole) really propels the ensembles and Cab Calloway is in typically exuberant voice. Among the highlights are "The Ghost of Smoky Joe," "Crescendo in Drums" (a feature for Cole), "Pluckin' the Bass" (Hinton's showcase) and even "Jiveformation Please".
The seventh of the Classics label's 12 Cab Calloway CDs traces his progress during an 11-month period through 24 recordings. The band's main soloists at the time included trumpeters Shad Collins and Irving Randolph, trombonists Claude Jones and Keg Johnson and especially tenor great Chu Berry (the band gets four instrumentals on this set). Singer June Richmond has a couple of vocals but obviously Cab Calloway is the main reason that the orchestra was working so steadily. With such songs as "Shout Shout, Shout," "Do You Wanna Jump Children" and "F.D.R. Jones" among the more memorable tracks, this CD (along with the others in the valuable series) is well worth picking up.
There is a lot of intriguing music on this CD, which features Duke Ellington's postwar orchestra. "Dancers in Love" (from "Perfume Suite") and "Carnegie Blues" (from "Black, Brown and Beige") managed to catch on as individual pieces, "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" and "Just Squeeze Me" were hits, and both "Tonk" and "Drawing Room Blues" showcased the piano duo of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. A few numbers are V-Discs, including a brief version of "C Jam Blues" that features the combined orchestras of Duke Ellington and Woody Herman (his First Herd). Among the changes in personnel were Russell Procope taking over for the retiring Otto Hardwick on alto and clarinet and Oscar Pettiford succeeding Junior Raglin on bass. This underrated music ranks with some of Duke's best work.