Many jazz history books underrate the contributions of European musicians prior to 1960, other than mentioning Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. The truth is that jazz has been heard and performed around the world ever since recordings became widely available in the early 1920s.
The better European players, who sometimes had opportunities to interact with visitors from America, caught on fairly fast. They initially learned to play jazz by closely emulating the sounds of Americans, both in the arrangements and many of the soloists. While there were a few distinctive soloists, a number that grew greatly in the 1950s, it was not until the modern jazz scene of the mid-1960s that European jazz musicians began to create truly new music in their own vocabulary.
The Kit-Cat Band Plays “Hot” Dance Music 1925-1927 features a twelve-piece group organized by British bandleader Jack Hylton to perform regularly at the Kit-Cat club in London. Most notable among the musicians are director Al Starita who doubled on clarinet and alto, hot trumpeter Tom Smith, either Hugo Rignold or Eric Siday on violin, and the group’s one major name of the future, trombonist Ted Heath, who led his own very popular dance band during 1944-69.
The Kit-Cat Band’s 24 most jazz-oriented recordings are on their CD and they fit very well into the jazz mainstream of the day. The musicianship and jazz sensibilities are on the level of most contemporary American bands and the recording quality (other than the opening acoustic track) is excellent. Trad jazz musicians wanting to find lesser-known material from the 1920s will find much here of interest for only eight or nine of the two dozen songs are still played today. Fans of 1920s jazz will certainly enjoy these rare recordings which have lively arrangements and inventive solos.
The Kit-Cat Band Plays “Hot” Dance Music 1925-1927 (Retrieval RTR 79080, 24 selections, TT = 72:56) www.challengerecords.com