Jazz Crusade JCCD-3071 2001, 18 tracks, 62 min
Dixie Flyer, Lazy Piano Man, Sweet Georgia Brown, Feather Brain, Home When Shadows Fall, It's A Long Way To Tiperary, Caution Blues Alabama Jubilee, Blue Room, Tiger Rag, South, When My Dreamboat Comes Home, Careless Love, Judy, Oh Dr Ochsner, Washington & Lee Swing, My Wild Irish Rose
Surprisingly enough, I have little material by Muggsy, so I was delighted when I can across this gem by Jazz Crusade. The tracks are from the early 1950s and have not been released on CD before. Jazz Crusade's boss, Big Bill Bissonnette, says that he can think of only three great white jazz trumpeters: Bix Beiderbecke, Wild Bill Davison and Muggy Spanier (he missed out Ken Colyer, the father of European traditional jazz, for some reason). Well I like all three, but when it comes to making a choice of whom I like the best, I have to pick Muggsy. It is not just the 'punchy' style, it not just his phrasing, nor his consummate skill with the mute, it is all those factors and other less definable ones. So, with my favourite white American jazz trumpeter and some brilliant recordings I am well pleased with this CD.
The music is a mix of fast (a little bit too fast at times I think) and slower paced tunes, jazz standards and rarities. Being from old masters, there is the odd pop and bang, but there is little or no surface noise. The quality of the recordings adds to the pleasure of listening to one of the originators of the Chicago style of traditional jazz playing at his peak. This is a wonderful CD, go buy it, you deserve it, honestly!
Jazz Crusade JCCD 3113 24 Tracks 75 min
Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, I Cried For You, Honeysuckle Rose, Muscat Ramble, Tin Roof Blues, When The Saints Go Marching In, Darktown Strutters Ball, Sister Kate, Clarinet Marmalade, That’s A Plenty, Royal Garden Blues, Sugar, Panama, Jada, South, Jazz Me Blues, Someday Sweetheart, At The Jazz Band Ball, Chicago, Blue Turning Grey Over You, Memphis Blues, St Louis Blues, Rose Room, Royal Garden Blues
Muggsy Spanier is one of those great jazzmen that I have always admired but, for various reasons, have failed to obtain an awfully large collection of their material. However, I do have enough of Muggsy’s to recognise the difference between his normal playing and those on these tracks. Big Bill Bissonnette, owner and runner of Jazz Crusade, advises that tracks 1 – 18 recorded April 1956 are from records that were made only for use in juke boxes. The balance are tracks recorded in the summer of '54 were from an obscure session (BBB had never heard of the session, so it must be really obscure!) that tried out various experiments in Hi-Fi and stereo.
It is all rather interesting. Each of the three recording sessions are quite distinct, and you certainly are aware when one session ends and the next begins. Of the juke box sessions a couple of the tracks have poor sound quality at the beginning, though they soon clear up, but tracks from those sessions are in fact clearer and have better definition than the Hi-Fi sessions. As I said; interesting.
As one would expect, the juke box tracks are all those tunes those people with just a passing knowledge of traditional jazz would recognise as jazz tunes and, apart from ‘Rose Room’, the Hi-Fi session follows this pattern. It is worth noting that in America the juke box companies felt that there was sufficient market to have these tunes specifically recorded and issued. In the UK we had Trad through the late 50s and early 60s; before then – nothing and once the fad went the jazz was pulled.
So, that is the background; what about the jazz? Well, this is Muggsy with his fingernails cleaned, his neck washed, shoes polished and wearing his best suit, as is only appropriate when being introduced to the wider public. The jazz is more arranged than one would normally expect from a Spanier album, but it is good stuff none-the-less and I was especially pleased to hear Peanuts Hucko on clarinet on the first session, and in fact there are some very good jazzmen in the three session bands fronted by Muggsy. In many ways the music reminds me of the Dutch Swing College band; good enough to satisfy the jazz aficionado but not wild enough to frighten the uninitiated. I have played this CD a lot over the past few weeks without getting bored with it and I am sure you will too, and it is not often you can get your hands on un-issued tracks by an acknowledged jazz master. So, cleaned up the man may be, but you can still smell his sweat!
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