May 25, 2004
Proper Records
Jazz, Mainstream Jazz, Jazz Instrument, Trumpet Jazz, Swing

Album Review

Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge was the living, breathing embodiment of what jazz has always stood for. Friendly and funny, fiery and eloquent, well-versed in tradition, and more than able to joust with young innovators on their newly defined turf, Eldridge's most important stylistic descendent was Dizzy Gillespie. In 2004, Proper Records released Little Jazz: Trumpet Giant, a four-CD grab bag containing some of Eldridge's best recordings made during the years 1935-1953. Almost simultaneously, Avid came out with Little Jazz Giant, a three-CD set covering much of the same territory. Proper beats Avid for quantity, and you'll want to note that the two sets have many titles in common. Proper's first disc zeroes in on Eldridge's adventures from 1935-1939. He is heard with bands led by Teddy Wilson, Fletcher Henderson, and Gene Krupa; as a member of the Delta Four with clarinetist Joe Marsala; as a prime mover in Chu Berry's Little Jazz Ensemble, and as leader of his own orchestra in the studio and on live broadcasts from the Arcadia Ballroom in New York. Disc two examines the years 1940-1946. Here, Eldridge interacts with Coleman Hawkins and one of the last jazz bands ever to call itself the Chocolate Dandies. There are more adventures with a later edition of the Krupa band, including the famous duet with Anita O'Day on "Let Me Off Uptown," and a pair of inspired blowing sessions with all-star bands sponsored by Metronome and Esquire magazines. Eldridge leads several of his own groups, including a trumpet ensemble with Emmett Berry and Joe Thomas for Harry Lim's Keynote label, and his fabulous big bands stoked with Buster Harding arrangements and brave young tenor saxophonists Ike Quebec, Tom Archia, and Hal Singer. There are also several fine examples of Eldridge's achievements as a member of Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five. Disc three documents the trumpeter's triumphs in Paris and Stockholm during 1950 and 1951, including marvelous moments with Lester Young devotee Zoot Sims, primal bop drummer Kenny Clarke, and saucy singer Anita Love, who duets with Eldridge on "It Don't Mean a Thing" and "Ain't No Flies on Me." The fourth disc begins with a few more selections from Stockholm and Paris, including a dazzling pair of duets with pianist Claude Bolling on "Wild Man Blues" and "Fireworks" in a wonderful invocation of the Louis Armstrong/Earl Hines duo of 1928. Back in New York in August of 1951, Eldridge participated in a series of Mercury recordings produced by Norman Granz, including a session headed by that producer's favorite artist, Oscar Peterson, heard here playing organ. The quartet with saxophonist Buddy Tate is strong and stimulating, although the Benzedrine-paced reading of "Yard Dog," for all its raw bop excitement, may cause seasoned listeners to regret the omission of the original big-band version of this attractive Eldridge/Harding composition, which when presented just a bit more slowly, feels like a sequel to Eldridge's theme song, "Little Jazz." (Seeing as the producers didn't hesitate to include comparative versions of certain other titles, two contrasting "Yard Dogs" would have worked nicely.) This outstanding compilation closes with an extended jam on W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," recorded in July 1953 with a decidedly modern gathering of Metronome All-Stars featuring a vocal by Billy Eckstine and cool input from beautiful people like Lester Young, John La Porta, and Warne Marsh. It's an appropriate closer for this portrait of a master musician which also provides a smart overview of how jazz evolved over 18 very eventful years.
arwulf arwulf, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. (Lookie, Lookie, Lookie) Here Comes Cookie
  2. What a Little Moonlight Can Do
  3. Sweet Lorraine
  4. Swingin' on the Famous Door
  5. Farewell Blues
  6. I Hope Gabriel Likes My Music
  7. Swing Is Here
  8. Blue Lou
  9. Stealin' Apples
  10. Too Good to Be True
  11. Warmin' Up
  12. Blues in C Sharp Minor
  13. Shoe Shine Boy
  14. Wabash Stomp
  15. Florida Stomp
  16. Heckler's Hop
  17. That Thing
  18. Sittin' In
  19. Stardust
  20. Body and Soul
  21. Forty Six, West Fifty Two
  22. S-H-I-N-E [Live]
  23. Roy's Riffin' Now [Live]
  24. I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
  25. High Society
  26. Smack
  27. I Surrender, Dear
  28. I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me
  29. Let Me Off Uptown
  30. Rockin' Chair
  31. Ball of Fire
  32. Royal Flush
  33. The Gasser
  34. Jump Through the Window
  35. Minor Jive
  36. Tea for Two
  37. Don't Be That Way
  38. I Want to Be Happy
  39. Fiesta in Brass
  40. St. Louis Blues
  41. After You've Gone
  42. The Sad Sack
  43. Little Jazz Boogie
  44. Embraceable You
  45. Little Jazz
  46. Just Floatin' Along
  47. Scuttlebutt
  48. All the Cats Join In
  49. Tippin' Out
  50. Lover, Come Back to Me
  51. King David
  52. It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
  53. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
  54. Undecided
  55. Ain't No Flies on Me
  56. The Man I Love
  57. Easter Parade
  58. Wild Driver
  59. If I Had You
  60. Nuts
  61. Someone to Watch Over Me
  62. Goliath Bounce
  63. I Remember Harlem
  64. Baby, Don't Do Me Like That
  65. L' Isle Adam
  66. (What Did I Do to Be So) Black & Blue?
  67. Echoes of Harlem
  68. Schooldays
  69. Saturday Night Fish Fry, Pt. 1
  70. Saturday Night Fish Fry, Pt. 2
  71. The Heat's On
  72. No Rolling Blues
  73. They Raided the Joint
  74. Estrad Swing (Roy's Got Rhythm)
  75. Hoppin' John
  76. Scottie
  77. Oh! Shut-Up
  78. Hollywood Pastime
  79. I'd Love Him So
  80. The Heat Is On (Tres Chaud)
  81. Wild Man Blues
  82. Fireworks
  83. Baby, What's the Matter With You?
  84. Yard Dog
  85. Sweet Lorraine
  86. Jumbo the Elephant
  87. Basin Street Blues
  88. I Remember Harlem
  89. Easter Parade
  90. I See Everybody's Baby
  91. Roy's Riff
  92. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
  93. Rockin' Chair
  94. Little Jazz
  95. Love for Sale
  96. Dale's Wail
  97. St. Louis Blues (Pts. 1 & 2)