102. Anthology of Big Band Swing, 1930-1955 (1993)
The scope of this Decca Records compilation encompasses the whole swing era from the stomping greats of 1930 to the final holdouts of the mid '50s. The restored sound quality is excellent but the strength, or allure, of this two-disc set is the variety of material that was chosen. The editors did a great job selecting the tracks, a sure success. Their work provides a detailed and meaningful cross section of the many diverse bands playing swing music in the United States. They could have flubbed it. Decca's roster was about as deep as the Yankees bullpen, but it also had some of the biggest guys in it. So in other words, while Basie, Duke, and Benny are represented here, they're not disproportionately represented to the exclusion of the label's other, smaller acts. Instead, the spotlight spreads a little
wider. The resulting collection is presented chronologically and allows listeners to follow swing as it matured and developed over a cool quarter-century. Across 40 tracks, there are 37 different bands that will jump, jive and wail you into a frenzy. There are so many great bands here in one collection, not to mention their soloists -- Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Chick Webb, Jimmy Lunceford, Mills Blue Rhythm Band, Tiny Bradshaw, Jack Teagarden, Noble Sissle, Glenn Miller. And the list goes on, and on, and on! I listen to the whole thing and I get excited thinking about the era, the big dance halls and the excitement this type of music provided to people like my grandparents in such a trying time of depression, war, and uncertainty. It's difficult and expensive for a listener to take in all the swing groups one-by-one and try to put them in context. These 40 songs make it much easier to understand foundational jazz music of the '30s, '40s, and '50s. This should be on every jazz collector's shelf.