This week’s POTW is features a fairly big band, and some really startling vocals from Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Joe Turner. It’s a pretty special record because of what Norman Granz was trying to do with it – namely, he wanted to try and recreate the Blues Shouting Contests that were customary at Sunday dances held throughout the country. These dances would often begin in the afternoon and go on until midnight.
From Granz’s notes:
“At those dances the band would play instrumentals. Basie would often play only with the rhythm section, occasionally a horn would fill in, and the singer would be backed either by the small group of the full band.”
So this is something of a cultural document or demonstration, as well as a phenomenal record of music. Both Big Joe Turner and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson shout on this record, and Vinson also plays alto saxophone – and Granz is quick to praise Vinson, having heard him play at the Apollo in Harlem and “being absolutely knocked out by Cleanhead’s saxophone because, among other things, he had the sound, almost I think more than anyone else, of Charlie Parker.”
This has to be among my few very top favorite big band records because it is so interesting, so unique, and because it gives the listener an experience of sort of cultural event that has long since passed into antiquity. The music is fantastic, dynamic as all heck – it’ll make you want to stand up and dance!
The crew is nothing to sneeze at, either – Aside from the Basie-Vinson-Turner highlights, you’ve got Freddie Green on guitar, drummers’ drummer Duffy Jackson, Cleveland Eaton on bass, and 14 trumpets, trombones, and saxes. It’s a big project with a big sound that’s exciting and fun to listen to – find a clean copy (or two – you might want a backup!) … I bought mine for $8, super clean. It apparently belonged at one time to to Edith Hamilton, Miami, Fla, 1981 (according to the ball point scrawl on the cover of my copy).
These “Pablo Digital” issues came in a translucent red vinyl – kind of a fun bonus.