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The John Kirby Sextet - "Biggest Little Band In The Land"

At the time, it was a phenomenon unlike any other in jazz. A unit which was so together that other musicians would come to marvel at the collective precision of it all – the subtlety of dynamics, the stunning ensemble virtuosity, the way the soloist was so integral a part of the continually floating, soaring, driving, whizzing whole. This was cool jazz before anyone had thought of the term, before Miles Davis and those Capitol recordings. This was tightly linear interplay before the Gerry Mulligan Quartet. This was a prototype of how disciplined jazz could be before the Modern Jazz Quartet. This was John Kirby – Nat Hentoff


Occupying a very small slice of jazz history, the years 1937 thru 1944 with the players listed, defined what superb artistry and cohesion to an extraordinary extent, could mean in jazz. The war years of the 40s decimated the membership and this exquisite ensemble was no more. Happily these recordings exist and are now once again available to jazz fans. You’ll never hear jazz the same way again.


The John Kirby Sextet flourished from the mid 1930s to the end of World War II. Each player was an outstanding artist and together they enhanced each other’s performance. The group included trumpeter Charlie Shavers, alto saxophonist Russell Procope, clarinetist Buster Bailey, pianist Billy Kyle, bassist and leader John Kirby and drummer O’Neil Spencer.


There are twenty-four selections on this remastered CD first released in 1976. Original liner notes are by Nat Hentoff. Selections include Birth of the Blues, Original Dixieland One Step, Shoo Shoo Baby, Perdido, Old Fashioned Love and The Peanut Vendor. If one is looking for some straight-ahead, 1940s style jazz recordings, this is a marvelous choice. I liked it. Hope you will!

SKU: CJ20

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Details

Details

Mr. Haydn Gets Hip B-Flat Special Down On The Himminent The Birth Of The Blues Original Dixieland One Step Bugler's Dilemma Blue Skies Rehearsin' For A Nervous Breakdown Manhattan Serenade Sextet from Lucia de Lammermoor Close Shave Move Over Shoo Shoo baby John Kirby Special Perdido Kansas City Caboose Amor Double Talk Boogie Woogie Old Fashioned Love Blues Petite The Peanut Vendor Tweed Me Down 9:20 Special

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Charlie Shavers / Russell Procope / Buster Bailey / Billy Kyle / John Kirby / O'Neil Spencer
Instruments All Instruments , Any Instrument
Composer No
Accompanist/ Conductor John Kirby - bass, Charles Shavers - trumpet, Russell Procope - alto sax, Buster Bailey - clarinet, Billy Kyle - piano, O'Neil Spencer - drums
SKU CJ20

Reviews

Customer Reviews (3)

CJ -20 The John Kirby Sextet: “Biggest Little Band in the Land”Review by Big Toots
Quality
Given their undeniable talent and swing, The John Kirby Sextet was one of those 1930-40s bands that certainly deserved much wider recognition than it received. And, this collection of two-dozen intriguing Swing Era cuts certainly validates that need for wider notoriety.

Somewhat of a rarity as a bass player-led group, the Kirby band (also known under different names: “John Kirby’s Onyx Club Boys,” ”Buster Bailey and His Sextet,” et al) seamlessly bridged that period of 20th Century American Jazz from the mid-30s post-Armstrong Era to that time when Swing and Big Bands dominated. One can hear that stylistically in this marvelous effort (“Birth of the Blues,” “Original Dixieland One Step”). Further, the band’s instrumentation (trumpet, saxophone, clarinet and rhythm section) provided an obvious illusion of being a larger ensemble than a sextet. It does that across this entire session, living up to the album’s title (“Manhattan Serenade,” “Kansas City Caboose,” “Amor”).

The repertoire covers a wide range of swing textures and timbres. And, when listened in historical context, fascinates. Kirby had a flair for classical music and that attraction is evident (“Mr. Haydn Gets Hip,” “Sextet from Lucia de Lammermoor”). Trumpeter Shavers is stellar throughout, even though he’s primarily muted (The Birth of the Blues”). Buster Bailey’s clarinet, while not nearly as technically proficient as Goodman, swings high and low (“Boogie Woogie”). Altoist Procope, who later starred with Duke Ellington, adds depth to the band’s sound (“Old Fashioned Love”) Pianist Billy Kyle, drummer O’Neil Spencer (“The Peanut Vendor”) along with Kirby’s thundering bass are swinging without bogging things down.

While “Biggest Little Band in the Land” definitely has historical jazz significance, this recording possesses many other musical attributes worthy of an extended listen – none the least of which is its apparent sincerity of swing. That’s something that some bands of much larger size lack.
(Posted on 4/28/2015)
Intriguing and Bigger Than "Little"Review by Big Toots
Quality
CJ -20 The John Kirby Sextet: “Biggest Little Band in the Land”

Given their undeniable talent and swing, The John Kirby Sextet was one of those 1930-40s bands that certainly deserved much wider recognition than it received. And, this collection of two-dozen intriguing Swing Era cuts certainly validates that need for wider notoriety.
Somewhat of a rarity as a bass player-led group, the Kirby band (also known under different names: “John Kirby’s Onyx Club Boys,” ”Buster Bailey and His Sextet,” et al) seamlessly bridged that period of 20th Century American Jazz from the mid-30s post-Armstrong Era to that time when Swing and Big Bands dominated. One can hear that stylistically in this marvelous effort (“Birth of the Blues,” “Original Dixieland One Step”). Further, the band’s instrumentation (trumpet, saxophone, clarinet and rhythm section) provided an obvious illusion of being a larger ensemble than a sextet. It does that across this entire session, living up to the album’s title (“Manhattan Serenade,” “Kansas City Caboose,” “Amor”).
The repertoire covers a wide range of swing textures and timbres. And, when listened in historical context, fascinates. Kirby had a flair for classical music and that attraction is evident (“Mr. Haydn Gets Hip,” “Sextet from Lucia de Lammermoor”). Trumpeter Shavers is stellar throughout, even though he’s primarily muted (The Birth of the Blues”). Buster Bailey’s clarinet, while not nearly as technically proficient as Goodman, swings high and low (“Boogie Woogie”). Altoist Procope, who later starred with Duke Ellington, adds depth to the band’s sound (“Old Fashioned Love”) Pianist Billy Kyle, drummer O’Neil Spencer (“The Peanut Vendor”) along with Kirby’s thundering bass are swinging without bogging things down.
While “Biggest Little Band in the Land” definitely has historical jazz significance, this recording possesses many other musical attributes worthy of an extended listen – none the least of which is its apparent sincerity of swing. That’s something that some bands of much larger size lack.

(Posted on 4/25/2015)
John KirbyReview by Simon Sez
Quality
One of the best and most distinctive small groups of the swing era, the John Kirby Sextet was at its best during the period covered by these radio transcriptions (1941-44). The band featured trumpeter Charlie Shavers (who often used a mute with this group), clarinetist Buster Bailey, altoist Russell Procope (later with Duke Ellington), pianist Billy Kyle (later with Louis Armstrong), drummer O’Neil Spencer and John Kirby on bass.

Playing everything from familiar tunes to originals, from classical melodies to “Original Dixieland One Step” and “The Peanut Vendor,” the John Kirby Sextet is at their peak during these performances. Everyone should hear this band!

Simon Sez: The John Kirby Sextet’s Biggest Little Band In The Land (CJ20) has some great radio transcriptions from 1941-44.
(Posted on 5/6/2014)

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