|Personnel: Louis Armstrong (vocals, trumpet, cornet); Bessie Smith, Big Joe Turner, Billie Holiday (vocals); Danny Barker , Dave Barbour, Everett Barksdale, Freddie Green, John Collins, Lawrence Lucie (guitar); Charlie Christian (electric guitar); Mancy Carr, Johnny St. Cyr, Fred Guy (banjo); Carroll Dickerson (violin); Harry Carney (clarinet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone); Russell Procope (clarinet, alto saxophone); Jimmy Strong, Jimmy Hamilton, Rudy Jackson (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Tom Mace, Johnny Dodds, Benny Goodman, Buster Bailey (clarinet); Otto Hardwick (reeds, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone); Earle Warren (saxophone, alto saxophone); Buddy Tate (saxophone, tenor saxophone); Coleman Hawkins, Danny Banks, Rudy Powell (saxophone); Jack Washington (alto saxophone, baritone saxophone); Joseph Nanton (alto saxophone, trombone); Eddie Barefield, Bert Curry, Crawford Wethington, Johnny Hodges, Leslie Johnakins (alto saxophone); Lester Young , Paul Gonsalves (tenor saxophone); Clark Terry, Doc Cheatham, Ed Lewis, Emmett Berry, Homer Hobson, Harry "Sweets" Edison , Hot Lips Page, Carl "Tatti" Smith , Jabbo Smith, Richard Clarke , Al Killian, Mel Davis , Ray Nance, Shad Collins, William Cat Anderson, Willie Cook, Louis Metcalf, Bubber Miley, Buck Clayton (trumpet); Dicky Wells, Frank Rehak, Fred Robinson , Quentin Jackson, Urbie Green, Vic Dickenson, Benny Morton, Dan Minor, John Sanders, Britt Woodman, Charlie Green (trombone); Pete Briggs, Mack Shaw (tuba); Gene Anderson (piano, celesta); Claude Hopkins, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Eddie Heywood, James P. Johnson & His Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, Lil Armstrong, Mildred Falls, Nat Pierce, Teddy Wilson (piano); Ralph Jones (organ); Robert Prince, Lionel Hampton (vibraphone); Cozy Cole, Eddie Dougherty, Jimmy Crawford , Jo Jones , Kenny Clarke, Nick Fatool, Osie Johnson, Sam Woodyard, Sonny Greer, Baby Dodds, Zutty Singleton (drums).
|This compilation is based around the book Living With Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings, and co-produced and annotated by that volume's editor, Robert G. O'Meally. The idea is to assemble various pieces of music with some connection to Ellison or his writings, with the specific threads -- a direct comment Ellison might have made on a track, for instance, or a song that's referred to in one of his stories -- explained in O'Meally's notes. Those connections can sometimes be quite specific and, frankly, extremely tenuous at other times. For those not immersed in Ellison's writings, it's still a pretty fair collection of jazz, usually on the soulful and bluesy sides, from the mid-'20s to the early '60s, albeit entirely jazz that happens to be administered by Sony. Certainly Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven's "Potato Head Blues," Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy," and Benny Goodman's "Flying Home" (a 1939 track, not the same as Goodman vibraphonist Lionel Hampton's more famous and influential recording) are major jazz classics. Ellington, Armstrong, and Jimmy Rushing are heard from two or three times apiece, and there are also quality selections from Count Basie, Bessie Smith, Teddy Wilson, Hot Lips Page (with Joe Turner on vocals), and Jones-Smith, Inc. (with Lester Young on sax and Count Basie on piano). Getting a little off the jazz track, there's also Mahalia Jackson's "The Holy Babe"; getting considerably off the jazz track, there's flamenco guitarist Vincente Escudero's "La Farruca." The set finishes with the only commercially available recording of Ellison's own voice, "Hidden Name and Complex Fate," an excerpt from a 1964 address at the Library of Congress. ~ Richie Unterberger