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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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Earl Bostic - Four Classic Albums

Earl Bostic (alto saxophone) with various accompaniments

Recorded 1949-58

AVID AMSC 1210 [66:06 + 63:25]





I’ve listed a generic ‘with various accompaniments’ in the headnote but I could have been specific and noted the names of some of the personnel in the Dance Time LP; Blue Mitchell, John Coltrane, Tommy and Stanley Turrentine, Benny Golson, Barney Kessel – and that’s not getting to the bass and drum men. I could have – but it would have been misleading, as this album and its confreres are largely one-man shows and that man is the titan of wail, Earl Bostic.

Ex-Redman, Calloway, and Hampton, Bostic cut a swathe of discs that showcased – and that’s the mot juste – astounding instrumental individuality coupled with taste so questionable that it’s often off the scale. Dance Time foregrounds up-tempo garrulity with a coarse but unpretentious approach to arrangements – minimal to non-existent – and an eccentric appropriation of repertoire. ‘Earl Bostic swings Fibich’ is not a title one would expect to see but he does precisely that to the nineteenth-century Czech composer’s evergreen Poeme. His attack elsewhere is so hard it’s hammer-like in its force and there’s precious little room for other soloists – the vibes player isn’t mentioned in the personnel listing. At least there’s a guitar solo in Roses of Picardy. Melancholy Serenade reveals his blues-drenched apprenticeship but it’s couched in vulgar showboating, something that must have been expected of him. As for those eminent sidemen, they provide backing figures only and collect the cash for very little.

Vulgarity and corn were part of Bostic’s shtick and the studio’s ridiculous recorded balances added to the impression in the album Let’s Dance. But Bostic’s inherent lyricism comes out in Danube Waves and the astute guitar comping and vibes solo in this album at least point to better distribution amongst his band. Alto Magic in Hi Fi starts with Twilight Time, real Stripper’s music but elsewhere one finds cod R&B and lashings of the kind of thing that must have excited King Curtis. Who is the trumpeter on Jer-On-Imo and Wee-Gee Board; he’s not listed in the personnel listings. There’s a Hammond organist on the latter as well, and he too is missing from the personnel: oh dear. This is essentially a Rock n Roll LP and the final set is pretty much yakety yak music as well. There’s a slightly sleazy Sentimental Journey and an air of really not taking anything seriously at all, allied to a muddy ensemble sound. All of this sounds awful but with Bostic a smile is never far from the listener’s face. Taken in isolation his nose-thumbing vacuities are more than bearable.

But then I love Bostic, vacuity and all.

Jonathan Woolf


1-12: ‘Dance Time’
1. Harlem Nocturne
2. Where Or When
3. Sweet Lorraine
4. Poeme
5. You Go To My Head
6. Off Shore
7. The Moon Is Low
8. Ain’t Misbehavin’
9. The Sheik Of Araby
10. I Hear A Rhapsody
11. Roses Of Picardy
12. Melancholy Serenade
13-24: ‘Let’s Dance’
13. Lover Come Back To Me
14. The Merry Widow Waltz
15. Cracked Ice
16. Song Of The Islands
17. Danube Waves
18. Wrap It Up
19. Blue Skies
20. Ubangi Stomp
21. Cherry Bean
22. Earl’s Imagination
23. My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice
24. Leiberstraum

1-7: ‘Alto Magic In Hi Fi’
1. Twilight Time
2. Stairway To The Stars
3. Rockin’ With Richard
4. Be My Love
5. Pinkie
6. Goodnight Sweetheart
7. Over The Waves Rock
8. Jer-On-Imo
9. C Jam Blues
10. Wee-Gee Board
11. The Wrecking Rock
12. Home Sweet Home Rock
13-24: ‘Dance Music From The Bostic Workshop’
13. Third Man Theme
14. The Key
15. Does Your Heart Beat For Me
16. El Choclo Cha Cha
17. Gondola
18. Sweet Pea
19. Ducky
20. Sentimental Journey
21. Barcarolle
22. Who Cares
23. Rose Marie
24. Up There In Orbit



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