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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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The Songs of Bessie Smith /
It Don't Mean a Thing
if it Ain't Got That Swing

Boplicity CDBOPD 032



Teresa Brewer with Count Basie

1. Trombone Cholly

2. Gulf Coast Blues

3. Down Hearted Blues

4. Baby Won’t You Please Come Home

5. St Louis Blues

6. After You’ve Gone

7. I Ain’t Got Nobody

8. Gimme a Pigfoot

9. I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle

Teresa Brewer with Duke Ellington

10. It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing

11. I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues

12. Satin Doll

13. Mood Indigo

14. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

15. I’m Beginning to See the Light

16. I’ve Got to be a Rug Cutter

17. I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good

18. Tulip or Turnip

19. It’s Kinda Lonesome Out Tonight

20. Poco Mucho

Teresa Brewer – Vocals with:

Tracks 1-4

Count Basie – Piano

Freddie Greene – Guitar

Norman Keenan – Bass

Sonny Payne – Drums

J. C. Williams, Robert Plater, Johnny Board, Eric Dixon, Curtis Peagler – Saxes

Frank Gaines Hooks, Henry Coker, William Hughes, Melvin Wenza - Trombones

Paul Cohen, Stephen Furtada, George Ninger, Waymon Reed, Sonny Cohn – Trumpets

Tracks 5-9

Count Basie – Piano

Sonny Cohn – Trumpet

Henry Coker – Trombone

Eric Dixon – Tenor sax

Freddie Greene – Guitar

Norman Keenan – Bass

Sonny Payne – Drums

Tracks 12, 14, 17, 19

Duke Ellington – Piano

Harry Varney, Russell Procope, Harold Minerve, Harold Ashby, Norris Turner – Reeds

Vince Prudente, Chuck Connors, Art Baron – Trombones

Money Johnson, Ray Nance, Johnny Coles, Barry Hall – Trumpets

Joe Benjamin – Bass

Quentin White Jr. – Drums

Tracks 11, 15

Add Tyree Glenn – Trombone

Tracks 10, 16

Add Mercer Ellington, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Jimmy Owens, Jimmy Nottingham – Trumpets,

Bunny Briggs – Vocals

Track 18

Duke Ellington – Piano

Joe Beck – Guitar

Herb Bushler – Electric guitar

Pretty Purdie – Drums

Bunny Briggs – Vocals

Track 13

Add Russell Procope, Harry Carney – Reeds

Tyree Glenn – Trombone

Omit Bunny Briggs

Track 20

Add James Mtume - Conga

Teresa Brewer is best known for the 1949 chart-topping hit Music!, Music!, Music!, a catchy little number for which Brewer’s commanding voice was ideally suited. She had further hits throughout the fifties up to the sixties. She separated from her husband in 1972 and married record producer Bob Thiele. She then appeared as a jazz singer on Bob Thiele’s labels and recorded with such famous jazzmen as Earl Hines and Dizzy Gillespie. This album features her with bands led by Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

The first four tracks use the entire Basie band but the last five use a small group. Thad Jones wrote the arrangements for the album which comprises songs made famous by Bessie Smith. The full power of the Basie band opens Trombone Cholly, and the trombones play together in the middle of the track. Count’s piano solos delicately. Teresa Brewer sings with feeling, even though her voice is not particularly attractive or subtle, and can often become excessively raucous in some songs. Thad Jones’ arrangements are superb: gently surrounding Brewer’s voice and providing the occasional heavier beat. As Nat Hentoff’s sleeve-notes sum up: “There is a zest in the brass-powered punctuations by the band in this set’s more exultant passages, just as there is apt airiness and floating lyricism in the band’s support during the more gentle sections”.

The second half of Hentoff’s summary is illustrated by Gulf Coast Blues, with a quietish middle section. And throughout the session, Count Basie adds subtle piano interludes which add class to the playing. Freddie Greene’s chugging guitar is constantly in the background, underlining the rhythm. Teresa Brewer’s strident singing is not particularly attractive in After You’ve Gone but the group swings like crazy in the way that Basie’s groups have always managed. I would quite like to hear these recordings without the vocals, so that I could savour Thad Jones’s arrangements and the Basieites’ classy solos.

Turning to the Duke Ellington section of the album, it opens with It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing, a song which has always struck me as impossible: with a tune too fast for singers to get the lyrics in. Anyway, Teresa manages fairly well, and the Ellington band shouts vigorously. Things settle down for I Ain’t Got Nothing but the Blues, which includes some neat growling trombone. The repertoire includes some Ellingtonian tunes which are seldom heard, like I’ve Got to be a Rug Cutter (which I seem to remember featured the unique sound of Rex Stewart) andPoco Mucho (which means “a little too much”). Mood Indigo features some nice muted trombone from Tyree Glenn. Here and in Don’t Get Around Much Any More, Teresa is too assertive for the necessary emotion.

Overall this is an enjoyable album, although I keep hearing in my head a voice singing “Put another nickel in”.

Tony Augarde

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