|Portrait (Retrospective RTR 4247). Playing time: 77m. 50s.
Drop Me Off in Harlem; Harlem Twist; Harlem Fuss; Jungle Nights in
Harlem; Underneath the Harlem Moon; Old Man Harlem; There’s a House in
Harlem for Sale; Harlem Joys; Harlem Lullaby; Go Harlem; Echoes of Harlem
(Cootie’s Concerto); Christmas Night in Harlem; Harlem Shout; It Was a Sad
Night in Harlem; Harlem Congo; Reunion in Harlem; Bojangles of Harlem;
Harlem Air-Shaft; Harlem in My Heart; Harlem Rumbain’ the Blues; I Dreamt
I Dwelt in Harlem; Holiday in Harlem; Harlem Hotcha; Harlem Nocturne;
Fare Thee Well to Harlem.
Too many to list, but they include those of Red Nichols, Fats Waller, Duke
Ellington, the Dorsey Bros., Chick Webb, Glenn Miller, among others.
These include Mildred Bailey, Jack Teagarden, Fred Astaire, and Ella
Fitzgerald, among others.
Recorded at various locations between 1928 and 1952.
This is a rather strange collage of musical performances, the touchstone for
inclusion being that each selection has “Harlem” in its title. However, all are
entertaining, excellent renditions of the tunes, a good number of which may
well be unfamiliar to many, as they were to me, played by well-known
musical groups for the most part. Kudos, too, to Martin Haskell for the
superb audio restoration and remastering.
Contributing to the enjoyment is the considerable variety in the musical
aggregations, which run the gamut from full orchestra with strings behind
Woody Herman on Harlem Nocturne to a trio backing Willie “The Lion”
Smith on Harlem Joys. They range from the pre-swing period (1928) with Red
Nichols & His Orchestra, to the waning days of the swing era (1952) with
David Rose & His Orchestra. (There is no attempt, however, to present these
chronologically.) Full discographical information for each track is provided in
the enclosed booklet.
Further adding to the mix is the inclusion of the vocalists, some with a big
talent (Ella Fitzgerald), others a lesser one (Fred Astaire), but all contributing
to one degree or another.
Although the playing time is a generous 78 minutes or so, this is not the kind
of disc one would put on and listen to the whole way through. Rather, it is to
be enjoyed two or three tunes at a time, I believe. I listened to it all the way
through the first time, but I enjoyed it more on subsequent auditions when I
took it a few tunes at a time.
Probably most aficionados will have many of these performances already in
their collections, but most likely several will be missing, and that might be
inducement enough to obtain this issue. For those not familiar with these
musical groups and/or the selections, this CD will probably have most
appeal. When last I looked it was available at a budget-saving price on
Amazon and possibly is so elsewhere on line.