Great Jazz Great Clarinets

Upbeat recently reissued a collection originally put out by Big Bill Bissonnette’s Jazz Crusade label that was titled Rare Cuts – Well Done, Volume 8. Featured are three classic clarinetists captured in the 1950s: Albert Nicholas, Edmond Hall, and George Lewis. Their performances are quite rewarding although this set has the caveat that two of the three sessions are not quite complete.

Albert Nicholas (1900-73) was one of the great New Orleans clarinetists to emerge during the 1920s. But because he led few sessions in the U.S. and spent the second half of his life living and performing in Europe, he tends to be underrated if not totally overlooked. Five of the six recordings that he made with an orchestra led by clarinetist Andre Rewellotty (the personnel is unidentified) on Nov. 28, 1953 lead off this CD. Nicholas’ attractive tone, excellent technique and hot ideas are very much in evidence on such numbers as “Deep River,” “I’m Confessin’,” and “Sensation.”

Red Wood Coast

The playing of Edmond Hall (1901-67) could easily cut through a big band. Few clarinetists had as passionate a sound. Seven of the nine numbers that originated as a pair of radio broadcasts from San Francisco’s Hangover Club match Hall with the masterful stride pianist Ralph Sutton, bassist Walter Page, and drummer Charlie Lodice. Performed in 1954 shortly before Hall joined the Louis Armstrong All-Stars, the clarinetist is heard in prime form during frequently exciting versions of such numbers as “Oh Baby,” “I’ve Found A New Baby,” and “St. Louis Blues.”

Although his playing was always distinctive, George Lewis (1900-68) could be a bit erratic. The very popular New Orleans clarinetist tended to play at the level of his trumpeters. He sounded brilliant next to someone like Henry “Red” Allen but, when Kid Howard (his regular trumpeter of the 1950s) was having an off day, Lewis did too. However Lewis is in excellent form on his two sessions with banjoist Dick Oxtot’s Traditional Jazz Quartet of 1956-57.

Teamed with cornetist P.T. “Pete” Stanton (a fine San Francisco-based player who deserves to be remembered), Oxtot, and bassist Lelias Sharpton, the clarinetist excels in this setting. He has opportunities to play songs that were not in his repertoire including “Smiles,” “’Til We Meet Again,” and “Should I Reveal.” In addition, two numbers (“The Glory Of Love” and “Good Morning Blues”) feature the still-active and quite compatible singer Barbara Dane.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Great Jazz Great Clarinets lives up to its name.

Great Jazz Great Clarinets
Upbeat URCD 335

Scott Yanow

Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.

Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.

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