The World’s Greatest Jazz Band (an obviously outlandish name for a group but one that got immediate attention) was an all-star Dixieland ensemble that was active during 1968-78. With Yank Lawson and Billy Butterfield on trumpets, trombonists Vic Dickenson and Lou McGarity, Bob Wilber on clarinet and soprano, tenor-saxophonist Bud Freeman, pianist Ralph Sutton, bassist Bob Haggart and drummer Gus Johnson, perhaps their name was not that far-fetched!
The WGJB’s finest recording was Live, a consistently exciting set from 1970. The band’s versions of “That’s A Plenty” and “My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms” are quite explosive, Lawson is at his best on “Five Point Blues,” both trumpeters are heated on “Come Back Sweet Papa,” Dickenson is showcased on “Constantly,” and the CD’s “bonus” cut, a previously unreleased “Just One Of Those Things,” features Freeman and Wilbur. Add to all of that six other selections including “Royal Garden Blues” and “The Jazz Me Blues” and one has a true gem.
Dixieland, hot jazz and swing may have been thought by many as being passé at the time, but few albums from 1970 in any style of jazz reached the level of excitement that can be heard on the WGJB’s Live, a set that belongs in everyone’s collection.
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 AllMusic.com. 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.