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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


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Drummin' Man

Retrospective RTS 4174



1. Drummin' Man
2. China Boy
3. Dinah
4. Who?
5. Blues Of Israel
6. Swing Is Here
7. Tiger Rag
8. Sing, Sing, Sing
9. I Know That You Know
10. Wire Brush Stomp
11. Rhythm Jam
12. Apurksody
13. Symphony In Riffs
14. Blue Rhythm Fantasy
15. Tuxedo Junction
16. No Name Jive
17. It All Comes Back To Me Now
18. Full Dress Hop
19. Drum Boogie
20. Georgia On My Mind
21. Just A Little Bit South Of North Carolina
22. Let Me Off Uptown

1. Bolero At The Savoy
2. Rockin' Chair
3. That Drummer's Band
4. Leave Us Leap
5. Dark Eyes
6. Opus One
7. Boogie Blues
8. Lover
9. How High The Moon
10. Disc Jockey Jump
11. Starburst
12. Calling Doctor Gillespie
13. Up An' Atom
14. Bonaparte's Retreat
15. The Drum Battle
16. Coronation Hop
17. Paradise
18. Overtime
19. Airmail Special
20. Gene's Blues
21. Mulligan Stew
22. Drummin' Man


Subtitled "His 43 Finest: 1927-1958", this well-filled double album gives us more than two-and-a-half hours of thrilling music. The compilation starts and ends with two different versions of the title-track: one from 1939 with vocals by Irene Day, the other from 1956 with Anita O'Day as the singer. But the earliest track is China Boy from 1927 by McKenzie & Condon's Chicagoans. This shows that Gene Krupa had already learnt how to drive a band along. Other recordings display Krupa with Red Nichols and Benny Goodman, as well as a couple of his own small groups. Even with a tiny ensemble like the Benny Goodman Trio, Gene proved that he could add fire to a group without being obtrusive.

But the most famous of therse early tracks is undoubtedly Sing, Sing, Sing, recorded with the Goodman big band at Carnegie Hall in 1938. For more than twelve minutes, Krupa's drumming (especially his tomtoms) spark the band and rouse the audience to the heights of excitement. With the bonus of a memorable piano solo by Jess Stacy, this is a matchless recording, where Krupa really let himself go. Krupa's taking the limelight was almost certainly the reason he and Goodman parted shortly afterwards, as Goodman didn't like other musicians stealing his thunder.

After the split, Krupa swiftly formed his own big band and it is this group (with varying personnel) which occupies most of the remainder of this collection. The band soon became popular with its precise, well-arranged swing and such drum features as Wire Brush Stomp and Drum Boogie. Gene understood that, whatever some critics might think of drum solos, the public loved them. And he soon brought in trumpeter Roy Eldridge and vocalist Anita O'Day, showcasing them in duets (which some racist bigots disliked because a black man was duetting with a white woman).

Krupa built up his band with such star players as trumpeter Don Fagerquist, pianist Milt Raskin and tenorist Charlie Ventura. Ventura was a particularly valuable addition, with his booting saxophone adding many powerful solos. It is good to hear a track (Dark Eyes) by Krupa's trio, with Ventura's tenor and Teddy Napoleon's piano setting off Gene's animated drumming. Krupa was also not afraid to introduce elements of bebop into his repertoire with such numbers as Leave Us Leap and Up An' Atom, although I'm sorry that Lemon Drop has been omitted.

As well as the big-band tracks, there are also three items from 1953 by a Krupa Sextet containing Charlie Shavers, Willie Smith and Teddy Wilson; a rather shambolic Drum Battle with Buddy Rich; a trio including Lionel Hempton and Teddy Wilson playing Airmail Special; and an all-star Norman Graz session with Gillespie, Eldridge, Jacquet, Peterson and others backing Krupa in Gene's Blues.

Of course, Gene Krupa's work can barely be comprehensively represented on two CDs - especially his monumental work with Benny Goodman's big band and small groups, but this is as good a selection from 1927 to 1958 as you are likely to find.

Tony Augarde

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