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From Spirituals To Swing Box set

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Audio CD, Box set, August 24, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

John Hammond's Carnegie Hall concerts brought a new legitimacy to black music and broke new ground in racial integration. These historic performances were previously excerpted on a 2-CD set in 1987, but now enough unreleased material (23 cuts!) has been discovered to fill another CD, including the only live recordings that Lester Young and Charlie Christian made together! Two hours and 51 minutes of monumental music.

In many ways, these 1938 and 1939 Carnegie Hall concerts ushered in an exciting period of black music for the American public. While great bandleaders like Benny Goodman had been blurring the color line for years, From Spirituals to Swing was the first prominent Carnegie Hall production to present African American performers to an integrated audience. Besides the racial and political implications of John Hammond's controversial shows, the producer was able to bring together some of the era's finest talent in jazz, blues, and gospel music. Recorded straight onto lacquer discs before the advent of long-playing albums and first released in 1959, this three-CD set includes two dozen previously unreleased performances by the likes of the Count Basie Orchestra, bluesman Sonny Terry, the Golden Gate Quartet, and James P. Johnson. There are several notable moments in Hammond's Carnegie collection, previously unreleased and otherwise. Naturally, this includes swinging presentations by a Basie band that showcase star-studded soloists like Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Herschel Evans, and Harry "Sweets" Edison. There are also three dynamic performances by the Kansas City Six, which feature the rare pairing of tenor saxophonist Lester Young with early guitar great Charlie Christian. The box set also includes wonderful vocal contributions from Joe Turner, Helen Humes, and Jimmy Rushing as well as blues icon Big Bill Broonzy and gospel matriarch Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Unusual artistic combinations make these Hammond productions particularly distinctive. The live trio collaborations between boogie-woogie pianists Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, and Pete Johnson are fast-paced and terrifically exciting. The New Orleans Feetwarmers showcase the Basie rhythm section of bassist Walter Page and drummer Jo Jones alongside Sidney Bechet and piano legend James P. Johnson for some real Dixieland music. While gospel contributions from the Golden Gate Quartet and Mitchell's Christian Singers are powerfully emotive, it's the seasoned work of Benny Goodman that tops off this fascinating set of performances. With a group that included Charlie Christian, Lionel Hampton, and pianist Fletcher Henderson, Goodman presents classic compositions like "I Got Rhythm" and "Stompin' at the Savoy." With a jam session finale of "Oh, Lady Be Good," From Spirituals to Swing sums up two historic musical events that should not forgotten. --Mitch Myers

Disc: 1
1. Swingin' the Blues [#]
2. One O'Clock Jump
3. Introduction
4. Blues with Lips
5. I Never Knew [#]
6. Don't Be That Way
See all 19 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Weary Blues
2. Milenberg Joys [#]
3. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
4. It Was Just a Dream [#]
5. Fox Chase [#]
6. Carolina Shout
See all 16 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. I Got Rhythm
2. Flying Home
3. Memories of You
4. Stompin' at the Savoy
5. Honeysuckle Rose
6. Blueberry Rhyme [#]
See all 20 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 24, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Vanguard
  • ASIN: B00000JT6C
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,536 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By on October 3, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I owned this in record form in the late 50's when it first appeared, and have been waiting for its CD version for a long time....especially since my vinyls have long since given up the ghost. What a range: from a capella gospel to Basie to Hot Lips Page, this is one tremendous and historic set of music played right before the war: hot, jumpin' jive with some of the biggest names (and some long forgotten, for shame!). It is, as I have proven, MEMORABLE music. If you like the sound of American jazz, from New York to Kansas to New Orleans, get this set! It includes many more cuts than were on the original 2-record LPs. Can't wait to put it on and feel happier each morning!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on April 22, 2005
Format: Audio CD
To me all the gold is in the prewar Count Basie Orchestra and this is the glue that holds together these recordings. Purely from the standpoint of Basieism, this is a crucial and important record.

The way that the sound has been remastered and recorded in this edition of the recordings, gives us the best real view of the Basie Orchestra on any live album I have ever heard that was cut before WWII, and better sound than some postwar live shots. Part of this is because of the superb natural acoustics of Carneige Hall. Part of this is that these concerts were recorded with actual recording equipment, while all the other live prewar Basie I know of are home wire recorder recordings of radio broadcasts.

We get to hear the full extent of Joe Jones' hard drumming with the band, something that doesn't come through even on studio recorded Decca and Columbia sides during the 1930s and 1940s. Joe's reputation as little more than a time keeper playing in unison with the rhythm section will die after you here the full Basie band selections on this CD. He is constantly dropping bombs and beating the heck out of the bass drum, without spoiling the perfect swinging time, he is famous for.

I really love the great solos by Lester Young on the big band pieces and am glad that we have a full version of One O'clock Jump, as most live versions of the tune are short sections of the tune that Basie used as an introduction or a sign off.

A lot of the richness here is in the mixtures of Baseities and the other musicians. We hear Helen Humes singing with James P. Johnson, whom she had recorded with in the 1920s, accompanied by Basieites. Likewise, veterans of the band filling out a band for the great Sydney Bechet.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. D. Tutt on November 13, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Wonderful performances by an all star line up. I agree with the previous reviewers, but would just point out one thing. Stride piano great James P. Johnson gets a lot of exposure here, playing in the Bechet / Ladnier group, guesting with Count Basie, and playing three solos. The performances of "Carolina Shout" and "Mule Walk" are well known and much re-issued, but the performance of "Blueberry Rhyme" has never appeared before on LP or CD. It is one of Johnson's most beautiful pieces, a gentle melodic delight which is given a wonderful reading here, on a par with the 1939 studio performance and better than the 1943 version.
Recommended to all jazz lovers, and to Johnson fanatics in particular!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JEAN-MARIE JUIF on October 10, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This 3 CD set includes the two "from spirituals to swing" concerts of Dec.23,1938 and Dec.24,1939 in Carnegie Hall, produced by JOhn Hammond.Just a glance at the artists : Count Basie's orchestra,with Hershell Evans,Lester Young,Buck Clayton,Shad Collins,Harry Edison,Jo Jones,Walter Page,and Hot Lips Page;Helen Humes with the Kansas City Five (Basie,Lester,Jones,Clayton,Page);Albert Ammons,Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis;Big Joe Turner;Sister Rosetta Tharpe;the New Orleans Feetwarmers (Sidney Bechet,Tommy Ladnier,James P.Johnson,Jo Jones,Walter Page);Big Bill Broonzy;Sonny Terry;James P.Johnson;Jimmy Rushing;the Golden Gate Quartet;the Benny Goodman Sextet,with Charlie Christian,Lionel Hampton,Nick Fatool,and Fletcher Henderson !!! Buddy Tate,Ida Cox,and Mitchell's Christian Singers.Even Robert Johnson should have been there,but he died unfortunately shortly before the first concert.There are definitive masterpieces by Basie and his men,by Lester's Kansas City Five,by James P.,Big Bill and Benny Goodman in this set.It includes also a three tracks studio session from June 3,1938 by the Kansas City Five ("mortgage stomp","allez-oop" and "lady be good").2 hours and 51 minutes of very great music,with 23 previously unreleased tracks.Plus and interesting 45 pages booklet, and a fac simile of the Dec.23,1938 program.Let's remember that this 1938 concert was the first one presenting on the prestigious New York scene some of the greatest black musicians of the century.A great date in the history of jazz,and a great moment of music.
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