Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Why is such an album out of print?
Gene DeSantis | Philadelphia, PA United States | 07/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Few pop-music stars have suffered more at their labels' hands than Harry James (excepting perhaps Benny Goodman). To get his music you must purchase all manner of albums, running the gamut from his fearsome sweet stuff like "Ciribiribin" to this outstanding collection of jazz instrumentals. And even then you may not get all the best. Try hunting down "September Song," arguably the definitive instrumental take, with a very Weillian Ray Conniff chart that smokes out all the gooey sentiment with a sound at once poignant and sinister.
Here however we do have the best, eighteen tracks from the James band's declining years -- commercially speaking, certainly not for its awesome music-making. After an ineffably charming small-group take of "I'm Confessin' That I Love You" we go straight into the strings -- which, Stanley Dance's notes assure us, added nothing to the James sound but were something to look at. From here on (mostly sans strings) the album demonstrates without qualification that James could lead a band in any kind of jazz and play it great; Basie, Ellington, Waller, he made them sound like them...and like HIM. The most memorable take is the haunting "Deep Purple"; he's in his schmaltz mode, but it's schmaltz with a zing. (This track came from a "dance" album since reissued on Collectables, each song bearing an interstitial and introspective intro; a shame the producers rejected its.) Neal Hefti's "The Great Lie" is the best up-tempo arrangement, and if the bongo-drumming sound headed to Vegas (as did James) it was quite a ride. Our leader may have convinced himself he adapted "Three for the Show" "from Rameau's Les Sauvages", but forgive us for thinking he adapted it from Billy Minsky and Gypsy Rose Lee -- and unlike most strip music this is boldface-and-italics SEXY. We conclude almost anticlimactically with "Perdido," a James favorite -- he recorded it several times -- and a '47 rendition of "Stompin' at the Savoy" that shows even bad engineering (it was mercilessly tweaked for a Columbia DJ disc in '54) could not water down that sound.
All these tracks nominally revolve around James's great alto saxist Willie Smith, but we didn't notice too raptly; for this, in the end, is James's music, and as fine a memorial to him as any album -- which is no doubt why Sony deleted it not long after its release."