The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions (#250)

Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set


The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions (#250)
"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


Neglected Swing Giant
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.

Unmatched Musically

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

  • Booklet
  • Audio Quality
  • Photography
  • Sample Session Notes
The liner notes for the Lunceford set comes from Eddy Determeyer, a freelance music journalist for a variety of Dutch publications. In 1984 his research led him to write a seven-part series on Lunceford for the Jazz Nu magazine. He also produces a weekly radio program called Holiday For Hipsters for the Dutch station Concertzender and is the author of Rhythm Is Our Business, the definitive biography of Lunceford.

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
Jimmie Lunceford
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 call it anything suggests an Oliver influence–but it very well may have been the other way around, since Oliver was given extra training by Wilcox. Back in 1933 he sometimes had Sy write three different arrangements on the same tune.

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.


Click here to write a review

  The Lunceford Band Best in the land!
Great set of Decca and World recordings of 1934-1945. I wish Mosaic would also release Jimmies excellent Vocalion and Columbia recordings of 1939-1940. One can dream, cant one. Jimmie Luncefords band: the band that plays with the big beat! Hep tune called I Got It! And that band certainly had everything a hep cat and hip chick could hope for.
Truly great big band swing music, listen to the clips!
  Mr. L'a Orch
Rock'n Roll, Baby, Swing and Soul!!
Simply a joy to listen to such upbeat, swinging music - the musicians are sharp, sophisticated, and the band is as tight as a great band can be.
  Stop, drop - and order!
If you already know about Lunceford, it's simple: Stop reading this, drop whatever else you're doing, and order this On the other hand, if you aren't familiar with this titanic jazz ensemble, prepare for a journey of discovery. Ballads, novelties and heavy-duty swingers are all treated with the same degree of respect and creativity. The result: the Swing Era's only jazz band that was every bit as entertaining to watch as to listen to. Astonishing, years-ahead-of-their-time harmonies are tossed off without a hitch or second thought, allied to a tremendous beat that no one ever equaled. When Mosaic first announced they were compiling this set, I was thrilled and skeptical. Thrilled, because the Decca period represents the heart of Jimmie Lunceford's peak years. Skeptical, because Decca's equipment and pressings were notorious, even by standards of the day. However, Andreas Meyer and the entire Mosaic production team are to be commended for their outstanding work on these challenging recordings. I went back to the two Lunceford CDs issued by GRP/Decca during the 1990s - which were sensationally good at the time - and the Mosaic tracks are clearly superior in virtually every instance. (Many thanks for not trying to remove those notorious early Decca "peaks and blasts.") And, in an unexpected bonus, Scott Wenzel and company have filled the elegant booklet with numerous photographs (many from the Joe Thomas collection) that even diehard swing aficionados haven't encountered before. So much for the sonics and presentation. What about the performances? It may take only a few tracks before you find yourself nodding in agreement with Glenn Miller: "Duke is great, Basie is remarkable, but Lunceford tops them both." "The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions" should be an essential element in any jazz collection. Recommended without reservation; purchase without hesitation!
  A Well-Deserved Tribute to a Legendary Band
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. I will hand this one down to my kids, and they will eventually pass it on to my grandchildren. The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions is truly the definitive set on every level. This long overdue release of the fantastic Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra is so good that I just kept listening to disc after disc. Sound engineer Andreas Meyer has done an outstanding job in mastering the music for this set. Working from a combination of remaining metal parts, John R.T. Davies vinyl test pressings, and mint quality 78s, Meyer has impeccably restored the music for this set. Most reviewers of Lunceford’s music have always focused on the outstanding arrangements. Because of the top-notch audio restoration, you will be able to pick up the nuances of Jimmie Lunceford as conductor. Shading and timbre, heretofore buried and muddled by the limitations of early technology, are now on clear display with this Mosaic release. The full spectrum of the original music is here on grand display. And make no mistake, properly restoring these early Decca masters was no small feat. If you are not familiar with the Lunceford band, then you are missing a vital chapter in American jazz history. Outstanding soloists, and excellent, tight section work give voice to innovative arrangements by Sy Oliver, Eddie Wilcox, Eddie Durham, and even early efforts by Gerald Wilson; and Lunceford, as leader, provides a cohesive vision. Not only is the Lunceford band musically great, it is fantastically entertaining. It’s impossible to listen to this set and not feel joy. The booklet provides an excellent history of the band, incorporating plenty of oral history that makes it live and breathe. The session notes may be unique among Mosaic booklets. They often have an impressionistic quality, making them quite entertaining on their own. Perhaps this is the most literary quality Mosaic booklet since those penned for Mosaic by the late Dick Sudhalter. With the release of the Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions Mosaic continues to assert their place as “the” preeminent source for recorded jazz history. Great job!
  Fantastic Swing!!!
A very delightful choice, a very swinging orchesta, smooth and tasty. It's a great pleasure to listen at
  A total delight
As another reviewer says, this is a set to put a smile on your face. I love Duke and Basie too but Lunceford's band had/has a more intimate, happy-go-lucky feel to it. Mosaic's superb re-mastering has brought these classic recordings and classic arrangements up as fresh as the day they were played and although I have many Mosaic sets this is already among my favorites.
  At last, a CD edition worthy of this great band
It was exactly 30 years ago this summer (i.e. 1981) that I discovered and fell in love with Jimmie Lunceford's music through the six LPs that had just been issued as part of MCA's Jazz Heritage Series. But in the CD era, Lunceford reissues have been hit-or-miss, and until now, none has comprehensively collected his recorded legacy. The sound of these CDs is phenomenal, even though much of the music is drawn from later-generation sources than Mosaic often has available. The booklet includes many rare photos and the text is superb. Another curatorial masterpiece from Mosaic, one worthy of a band that deserves a place in the pantheon alongside Ellington's, Basie's and Goodman's.
  Jaw Dropping!
I was a bit wary of laying out for this set. John R.T. Davies did a fine job on the GRP "Original Jazz Masters" series of Decca sides from the mid-30's. And Decca isn't known for high quality recordings in this period; they were the bargain label at the time......... All such thoughts evaporated about 15 seconds into listening to the first track. Holy S**t!! Mosaic really outdid themselves with the sound quality on this one. The clever arrangements for which Lunceford is so rightly famous: the sudden tempo shifts, the perfectly timed interjection from a previously quiet horn section, the sly humor, all come through more impressively because you can make out the distinct sound of each instrument in the section (as opposed to hearing the usual undifferentiated schmear of horns). Duke is deeper. The Count is more exciting. But for out-and-out put a smile on your face big band fun, this collection is unbeatable (against some pretty heavy competition from, ahem, Mosaic Records). String bass holding up the rhythm -- loud and clear. Piano tinkling away a soft counter melody -- I can hear it like it was right over there. And then I read they did it all without having the metal masters! I can finally hear Willie Cook!(yes, he will). Sometimes these tunes start out sounding all swing cliche only to become a parody of same, effective because of the pure perfection (sought after but seldom achieved by the prissier dance bands of the day) of the rendering. "The Sound of Surprise" here comes from the arrangements rather than the solos. Never before or since was a band so thoroughly drilled and so perfectly synchronized. Or possessed of such a wry humor that I actually burst out laughing. Ever since I received these treasures, I've been in a state of delight. Haven't felt like this since I was a kid at Christmas.
  What happened to the metal parts?
The producer notes that the majority of the original Decca metal parts no longer exist in the Universal Music vaults. Were these lost in the 2008 fire at Universal Studios?
  Great Band, Great Leader
I've always enjoyed the music of Jimmy Lunceford. He may not have been beyond category, like Duke Ellington, but he had a swinging, versatile band with accomplished sidemen that is always a joy to listen to.

The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions (#250)
The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions (#250)
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies
7 CDs - $119.00

Customer Reviews:

"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."
Read More Reviews »

Special Sales
Last Chance Offerings
Noteworthy Jazz News

Running Low Sets

Jimmie Lunceford (7 CDs)

"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." - Customer review

----------------------------------------------- <

Earl Hines (7 CDs)

“"There are very few long-playing sides which equal the first two in this set for spirit, drive, swing, bristling ensembles and infectious solos. At the time they were recorded, in 1939-40, Count Basie’s band was all the rage, but man for man, and arrangement for arrangement, the Hines band could battle it on its own terms and come away with colors flying.” - Stanley Dance


Rosemary Clooney (5 CDs)

“Rosemary was an unparalleled storyteller. Her precise intonation and spot-on sense of rhythm took full advantage of any song that gave her the leeway to swing the beat and pop the lyric.