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

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Wholly Cats

Phono 870222



1. Benny’s Bugle

2. A Smooth One

3. Air Mail Special

4. More Than You Know

5. Wholly Cats

6. Goodbye

7. Seven Come Eleven

8. My Blue Heaven

9. Stardust

10. Cross Your Heart

11. Frenesi

12. Medley: Dancing in the Dark/Moonglow/Time on My Hands

13. Indian Love Call

14. Summit Ridge Drive

Buddy DeFranco – Clarinet

Barney Kessel – Guitar (tracks 1-11)

Don Fagerquist – Trumpet (tracks 1-7)

Georgie Auld – Tenor sax (tracks 1-7)

Victor Feldman – Vibes (tracks 1-7)

Carl Perkins – Piano (tracks 1-7)

Leroy Vinnegar – Bass (tracks 1-7)

Stan Levey – Drums (tracks 1-7)

Ray Linn – Trumpet (tracks 8-14)

Paul Smith – Piano, harpsichord (tracks 8-14)

Howard Roberts – Guitar (tracks 12-14)

Joe Mondragon – Bass (tracks 8-14)

Milt Holland – Drums (tracks 8-14)

This CD comprises LPs from 1957 in which Buddy DeFranco led small groups in visiting the repertoire of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. Thus a modernist clarinettist paid tribute to two swing-era clarinet giants.

The Benny Goodman items were mainly small-group sessions, especially from the glory days when Goodman’s band included guitarist Charlie Christian. The Artie Shaw tracks also pay homage to his famous small group, the Gramercy Five, with tracks like Summit Ridge Drive, where Paul Smith attached a device to the piano to imitate the sound of the harpsichord. This recaptures the sound of the Gramercy Five. But there is also consideration for Artie’s big-band successes, notably Stardust and Frenesi. In Stardust, Buddy doesn’t try to emulate Shaw’s classic clarinet solo but he hands the melody over to trumpeter Ray Linn and guitarist Barney Kessel. In Frenesi, DeFranco recaptures the jaunty feeling that Artie Shaw had in his famous recording.

Both small groups that DeFranco assembled for these sessions are full of stimulating musicians. The first group is pianoless, substituting Victor Feldman’s vibes for the piano, but Victor is always a melodically interesting player. Georgie Auld enhances the first session with some swinging tenor-sax solos. Paul Smith showed his versatility at the piano when he accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, and it is very evident here. However, the outstanding musician is Buddy DeFranco, with that clear, pure tone which took the sound of the swing-band favourites and elaborated on their style. DeFranco’s exceptional technique is on display in Air Mail Special, which is taken at an unbelievably fast pace, but Buddy manages to keep up.

It is nice to hear “tributes” that are more than mere imitations of the originals. I should warn you that these are only half the tracks that DeFranco recorded in 1967 as tributes to Goodman and Shaw. Buddy DeFranco died in December 1914 at the age of 91 but this cheerful album suggests that his music will live as long as jazz is played.

Tony Augarde

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