After periods of time as the trumpeter with Stuff Smith’s Onyx Club Boys in the 1930s and as a key member of the Cab Calloway Orchestra (1941-52), Jonah Jones gained unexpected fame a decade after the swing era ended. Emphasizing a shuffle rhythm with his quartet and sometimes playing muted, he had hit recordings of “It’s All Right With Me,” “On The Street Where You Live,” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” Jones became a fixture in the swing and easy-listening market for 20 years.
However in 1954, before his hits, Jonah Jones recorded what was arguably the most exciting recording of his career. While in Paris, he teamed up with the magnificent soprano-saxophonist Sidney Bechet on eight performances. The assertive Bechet, who disliked dominant trumpeters, preferred to have the trumpeter play a solid melodic lead while leaving space for his own playing. He obviously enjoyed Jones’ approach for they brought out the best in each other during this competitive session. The sparks really fly as Jones and Bechet battle each other, particularly on the two versions of “When You Wore A Tulip” and “Chinatown, My Chinatown,” with “Crazy Rhythm” and “Somebody Stole My Gal” not falling far behind. To say that this music is stirring is an understatement.
That historic encounter is released in full on Jonah’s Wail along with six songs from an unrelated session that matches Jones with the fine French swing tenor-saxophonist Alix Combelle. They create some musical magic of their own, particularly on the title cut” and “Love Is Just Around The Corner,” but it is the Bechet-Jones session that makes this Inner City CD (a reissue of their earlier Lp) a true classic.