Recent listening, current

Monday, September 16, 2013

139. Jimmie Lunceford / Strictly Lunceford (2007)

Today, Lunceford is lesser known than his peers. This four-disc set from Proper provides a good introduction to Lunceford's work across numerous record labels. Audio and notes in the accompanying 28-page booklet are commendable. Considering how good this band was, any neglect by record companies or listeners seems a real shame: Lunceford's band replaced Cab's at the Cotton Club, an appointment that was no mean feat. Then and now, they have a lot to offer. The famously diverse repertoire uses vocals, novelty songs, and barn burning dance music on par with other great orchestras. Lunceford's driving two-beat pulse appears in tracks like "Lunceford Special." I find it instructive to compare arrangements by Sy Oliver to those done by his successor, Billy Moore, as well as the other arrangers in the group. All crackle with originality. I love Oliver's muted brass ensemble in "Chillun, Get Up!" but Wille Smith's radical take on "Mood Indigo," replete with staccato phrases and soaring three-octave accompaniment on reeds and brass, isn't to be tangled with, either. On every track, the soloists are poignantly melodic and very sweet, like Eddie Tompkins on trumpet or the aforementioned Willie Smith on alto. The eagle-eyed (or eared?) listener will also spot the likes of Snooky Young and Gerald Wilson. Don't overlook this set!

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