Some very good Pee Wee if not the best
JEAN-MARIE JUIF | BESANCON France | 12/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Here is a fine album by the great Pee Wee Russell (1906-1969),who remains in the memories of some jazz lovers as one of the most original clarinet players of all times.Of course,this CD can't be compared to the absolute masterpieces Pee Wee recorded during the last ten years of his life: his two magnificent,incredible albums on Impulse,the fantastic "New groove" on Columbia,the outstanding "Portrait of Pee Wee" on Counterpoint,the very rare "Pee Wee plays Pee Wee" on Stereocraft and the beautiful "Memorial album" on Prestige.In the last years of his life,this musician,who had allways been classified as a "Chicagoan",playing traditionnal and dixieland repertoire,started a new life;he recorded with Thelonious Monk at Newport,and used to play some John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman tunes.
But this is not the most impressive fact in Pee Wee's musical personnality.What is the most fascinating in Pee Wee's art is this extraordinary breath,this so fragile and so emotionnal sound he gets from the blackstick.No one ever played like this,even Bigard,Cottrell or Procope.Oh,don't forget Lester Young,maybe the greatest clarinet player,and who recorded so few on this instrument.Listen to the amazing poetry which comes from his instrument on "Sugar";the solo he plays on the verse,(a verse that was so rarely played) after the first ensemble is as great as a Lester Young solo on clarinet.
IN this album,Pee Wee meets two different groups: the first 6 tracks includes George Wein on piano,Buzzy Drootin on drums,the great Vic Dickenson on trombone and the majestic Doc Cheatham on trumpet.The second group features the same piano and trombone players,but Wild Bill Davison plays trumpet.Of course,my favorite tunes are those with Doc.Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham simply was one of the greatest soloist on this instrument in the history of jazz,and he remained an extraordinary trumpet player even in his last records;he played and recorded until his death,92 years old.It seems incredible ,but as he grew older,he seemed to play better and better.At 90,he blew like a young man.Try his album with Nicholas Payton,for example,and you'll have troubles to say who is 23 and who is 91.
There is a refreshing youth in these sides,even if the tunes seem to be a little older.And this is a good way to meet Charles Ellsworth Russell,a very singular musician,who played with Bix Beiderbecke a long long time ago,then with Armstrong,and Monk,who liked Eric Dolphy's music,and recorded some Trane and some Ornette.This guy really was a curiosity .He came from an Irish family.Too bad he was such a hard drinker.By the way,I forgot to tell you he also was a painter."