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The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions (#250)Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set
"They were the forerunners, between swing and bebop. They were right there. And their records prove this. One of the greatest bands of all time.” – Gerald Wilson
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies
7 CDs - $119.00
Lunceford Gets His Ultimate Tribute
With reliable interest in the Swing era, you’d think the industry by now would have commissioned comprehensive retrospectives of every name of seminal importance. Every band of era-defining significance. But you’d be wrong. Inexplicably, there has been a glaring omission. Until now. With Mosaic’s latest set of The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions, one can appreciate the innovations and brilliance of this band as never before.
Fortunately, Universal Music understood our passion for completeness and gave us access to the metal parts used to stamp the original Lunceford discs. And when a part was missing or damaged beyond hope we had access to mint test pressings from the estate of the legendary sound engineer John R.T. Davies and 78s from Leon Dierckx a noted collector.
To enhance this set even further, we found at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the photo archive of Lunceford’s tenor star Joe Thomas. In many cases these rare images have never been seen before now. We put this whole project together like we were doing it for the ages. And because with Lunceford – for whom quality was paramount – the music demanded it.
While today his name isn’t the first that pops to mind when casual listeners think of Swing-era pioneers, in his time Jimmie Lunceford rivaled Basie, Ellington, Goodman, and all the greats. And it’s said that in live performances, he topped them all.
Fame in Harlem
Lunceford’s Decca period began in 1934, and coincided with his booking at The Cotton Club, an important launch pad for so many bands of the Swing Era. It was a reputation-making engagement for Lunceford whose dedication to expert musicianship, was something you’d expect from a man who had been a music educator before taking his former high school band on tour. His line-up remained intact through much of its span, which helped fuse the Lunceford style. He was also a consummate showman, who rehearsed his band endlessly through blistering ensemble sections while incorporating visually enthralling choreography that included the trumpets throwing their horns into the air in unison and catching them on cue.
While other bands are remembered for their soloists, Lunceford’s was largely an ensemble band and his arrangers were the stars. Pianist Ed Wilcox, alto saxophonist Willie Smith and trumpeter Sy Oliver had molded the Lunceford sound with daring harmonies and intricate rhythm rarely heard outside of Ellington and few other bands. Guitarist and trombonist Eddie Durham’s arrangements were also a key element to the sound and later on young Gerald Wilson and Tadd Dameron became important contributors to the Lunceford book.
Which is not to say that Lunceford lacked choice soloists. Oliver and Smith were important musical voices, as were tenor saxophonist Joe Thomas, Durham and trombonist Trummy Young. Jimmy Crawford made sure no one would ever think about needing a different drummer. Willie Smith played another leading role as the saxophone section leader who trained the rest in their fiery fingering, and still another as one of the bands vocalists, which also included Oliver, Thomas and Young.
Medium tempo swing dominated the program, and Lunceford’s two-beat lilt was an ideal catalyst for dancing. While the goal was to put on a memorable show, musically Lunceford couldn’t be matched when all the elements of light-heartedness, musical excellence, arranging mastery, and swing came together. Hearing the orchestra whip through a complex arrangement could leave the impression the entire orchestra was improvising in simultaneously perfect rhythm and perfect harmony.
Both of Lunceford’s long associations with Decca are covered here (there was a hiatus with Columbia between them) and include his classics "My Blue Heaven," "Margie" (the Trummy Young trombone and vocal feature), "Rhythm Is Our Business," "Sleepy Time Gal" (with its remarkable reed passage), "Swanee River" (the Sy Oliver chart later adopted by Dorsey), "Organ Grinder's Swing," "Blues In The Night," "The Honeydripper," and the smash hit "For Dancer's Only."
A Wealth of Sources
Remastering the entire catalog was Andreas Meyer, who did an amazing job on our Artie Shaw and Louis Armstrong sets and we were fortunate to coax Eddy Determeyer, author of the Lunceford biography “Rhythm is Our Business,” to write our exclusive Mosaic booklet.
As always, our Mosaic set is strictly limited and when this set is sold out – the first and only collection that gathers all of Lunceford’s Decca sessions together – it will be gone for good. Don’t miss out on this one.
Read More About Jimmie Lunceford:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »
"Lunceford, that's my big band, that's my...oh man they used to swing, first band I saw in my life. They would breathe - they had been so long together. They were the greatest band that I ever heard in my life. The reed section sounded like some horses running, they were so close. First time I ever heard a reed section sound - and they played real soft - but they were so strong." - Joe Houston, saxophonist
- Audio Quality
- Sample Session Notes
The audio for the Lunceford set are from the best available sources. We had the original metal parts for almost 1/3 of the package. The other two-thirds are split between mint condition 78s mostly from the collection of Leon Dierckx and vinyl test pressings from the collection of the late John R.T. Davies, whose mastery as a sound engineer is legendary. Our engineer for the set is Andreas Meyer who has transferred many of our past pre-tape era sets to much acclaim.
Photo Copyright © Protected
While in the research stage of this sets production, we were led to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Library which houses, among other jazz related material, the Joe Thomas collection. Thomas, the lead and solo tenor saxophonist with Lunceford, saved a wealth of marvelous images that we sifted through and chose the cream of the crop. Among them are Decca studio and live stage shots from a variety of photographers. Also Dan Morgenstern at the Institute of Jazz Studies loaned us some very rare photos of the band.
October 29, 1934
Sy Oliver strikes again! This time it is with Dream Of You, his own composition and the first one to attain evergreen status. The tune enters on tiptoe and then the composer presents us with some fine growling, backed by delicately murmuring clarinets. A brief but dynamic interlude leads to Oliver’s relaxed vocal. The cat really seems to be drifting away in a dream. The saxophones behind the vocal are all but imperceptible. They whisper a bit louder as Russell Bowles makes his entrance, and the song ends with Oliver’s muted trumpet pitted against Bowles’s wah-wahing trombone.
Just like a Flemish miniature, Stomp It Off abounds with images. Oliver contrasts the various sections in an architectural way. Their interlocking suggests solid building. The arranger works in a mighty big workshop. Too many ideas can get entangled, or trample one another. This is never the case with the young man from Zanesville.
The way Eddie Wilcox works with contrasts in The natural balance of this big band is immaculate to the point one can hear Al Norris’s humble acoustic guitar amidst the roar of nine wind instruments. The tune is capped by a gorgeous saxophone choir, one of Wilcox’s trademark specialties. Next to Benny Carter he was the ace writer for saxophones during the swing years.
The natural balance of this big band is immaculate to the point one can hear Al Norris’s humble acoustic guitar amidst the roar of nine wind instruments. The tune is capped by a gorgeous saxophone choir, one of Wilcox’s trademark specialties. Next to Benny Carter he was the ace writer for saxophones during the swing years.
CUSTOMER REVIEWSClick here to write a review
"While every Mosaic set I own is outstanding, Mosaic sometimes produces a set so superlative as to be an heirloom quality product. The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions is one of those sets."
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