Import, Box Set
One of the most distinctive musicians in Dixieland, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell branched out in many directions in his career, as does this sprawling set. You'll hear '30s sides with Eddie Condon, '40s cuts with Fats Waller and Muggsy Spanier and 1961 tracks with Coleman Hawkins and Milt Hinton: The Eel; Diane; Squeeze Me; Sensation; Embraceable You; Panama; Rosetta; D.A. Blues; Sugar; 28th and 8th , and 60 more!
Top customer reviews
Sound Quality: 3 stars
Packaging: 2 stars
Bang for the Buck: 4 stars
The clarinet is usually such a polite, sweet instrument in the hands of most of its best known masters (Goodman, Shaw, Bigard,...). But Pee Wee Russell has a very sharp, aggressive edge to his tone; be careful handling the CDs, you might cut your fingers. The first 3 CDs, recorded between 1933 & 1944, all feature him as a member of the long-standing Eddie Condon (banjo) band that was headquartered out of Nick's Club in Chicago. Heavily slanted toward dixieland (but with an edge), the mostly uptempo numbers here are a lot of fun, and the occassional down tempo tunes give PWR a chance to show his pretty side. But he was never really satisfied with the "Nixieland" ghetto his playing was trapped in with this group; there is a distinct lack of variety to this material. None of his early work with the exciting Mound City Blowers, or his 50's work when he finally took control of his music and formed his own bands. While a very dominant side man with this group, he does often have to wait his turn to solo. As a jazz experience, 3.5 stars but for sheer cheerful upbeat whoopie 4.5 stars.
The last CD is a 1961 session with Coleman Hawkins with a very solid rhythm section (PWR was not great at keeping his own time). It's a pleasant if sedate set, playing with Hawk as he had 30 years earlier in the Mound City Blowers. The playing, however, shows Pee Wee and Coleman powers fading somewhat as they both neared the end of their careers. Pee Wee plays a lot sweeter and works the lower register a lot more than on the Nixieland pieces. The old masters seem to push each other, there are some high points, and the set is of historical interest. A nice bonus, if less than scintillating on its own.
The sound quality is fair; given the direct-to-disk recording methods of the time. There's no noise, but there is noticable distortion in some of the trombone and trumpet playing. And on some tracks, there is a distinct "listening from the next room" reverb applied either during the original recording or the remastering process. I suspect the latter, since many other Quadromania disks suffer this way. The sixties set on CD4, of course, sounds much better.
The 4 CD holder, while otherwise well designed, suffers because the teeth that should hold the CDs in place let go and/or break during travel or handling. The documentation lists accompanying musicians and recording dates, but no biographical or other information.