Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman: Complete Commodore & Decca Sessions (#259)

Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set


Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman: Complete Commodore & Decca Sessions (#259)
This collection of mostly bracing and upbeat music celebrates two rugged individualists of jazz and their like-minded circle of friends... - Dan Morgenstern , liner notes
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies

8 CDs -  $136.00


From Chicago To New York, They Brought The Party.

The jazz musician might be a revolutionary or a firebrand, and either a willing leader or soldier of musical revolt. But if he or she isn't all of that, every one is at very least a rascal. A non-conformist. Comrades for life with kindred artists who decided, when the world got divided, to pack into the corner with the misfits, the jokers, the potentially dangerous and mildly wild - pretty much anyone who wasn't one of the straights.

Eddie Condon and Bud Freeman were just such spirits. In some respects they were keepers of the flame for the New Orleans' origins of Dixieland, but as Chicagoans they put their own stamp on things. Harder, faster, more focused on personality and soloing than ensembles, the music attracted others who enjoyed palling around and blowing free. This is jazz that seemed naturally born in smoky back rooms and saloons. And you were always guaranteed a fine time.

Thanks to Mosaic's ability to bundle collections from numerous labels and archives, we can finally present, for the first time anywhere, The Complete Commodore & Decca Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman Sessions. It's a substantial set - eight CDs containing 199 tracks in all. The set spans the years 1938, when Chicago-style jazz first took root in New York, through 1950.

The Nicksieland Band

It's the most extensive collection you will find showcasing this style, from two of its leading proponents -- music that became known as Nicksieland Jazz after Nick's Tavern in Greenwich Village, the popular haunt that was home to this music from the time these tracks were recorded.

In the interests of being as complete as humanly possible, we've searched out every available LP and 78 from collector sources to augment what exists in the record label vaults, then painstakingly and lovingly transferred them using state-of-the-art 24-bit digital technology. We can confidently assure you, you've never heard them sound this good.

But the honest truth is, this music always sounds pretty darn good.

A Who's Who of the Chicago Style

They are joined on the sessions by noted denizens Bobby Hackett, Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, Jess Stacy, Artie Shapiro, George Wettling, Vernon Brown, Joe Buskin, Lionel Hampton, Joe Sullivan, Clyde Newcome, Dave Tough, Billy Butterfield, Max Kaminsky, James P. Johnson, Peanuts Hucko, Ralph Sutton, Ed Hall, Yank Lawson, and others. In other words, the gang's all here. Many of them, simultaneously working in more traditional and sweet bands, took these dates as an opportunity to blow.

Chronologically, these recordings sit alongside the Columbia Condon Mob Sessions on Mosaic, beginning a little sooner and ending a little earlier. They pre-date Mosaic's Condon Columbia All-Stars set. And the Commodore material previously appeared on our Complete Commodore three-volume set. All of those collections are long out of print and hard to find. The currently-available Mosaic Bud Freeman single, Chicago/ Austin High School, is from a late-1950s reunion, well after the era of these sessions.

Our exclusive 40 page booklet includes an essay by Dan Morgenstern, an extensive discography that corrects many discrepancies and errors, and rare photos. There are a multitude of unissued alternate takes from many of the Decca sides that were languishing in the vaults. As with all our Mosaic sets, it will only be available for a limited time.

Read More About EddieCondon:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »

  • Booklet
  • Audio Quality
  • Photography
  • Sample Session Notes
The liner notes were written by none other than Dan Morgenstern, a champion of this great music and who also compiled the notes for our Commodore sets back in the 1980s. The discography has been updated with new information provided by the producer with help from Dan and other collectors and researchers.

The sources for our Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman package involved gathering mint 78s from the Institute of Jazz Studies and a variety of other sources. In the case of many Commodore alternate takes we used tape transfers from Milt Gabler’s collection that appeared on our Commodore LP volumes. Sessions (W) through (BB), which are Eddie Condon Decca sessions, were taken from the original 16” lacquers that are housed at the Library Of Congress.

Photo Copyright © Protected
The photographs for this set were mostly taken by the magnificent Charles Peterson who was a close friend of not only all the Condonites but to the jazz community at large. His precious, revealing and beautiful images are in the hands of his son Don who graciously made these available to us.

(A) Eddie Condon And His Windy City Seven / A Jam Session At Commodore
January 12, 1938

Commodore’s debut could have happened sooner, but Milt knew whom he wanted for the launching and this was the Swing Era. Bands did a lot of touring. Bud Freeman was with Tommy Dorsey, George Wettling with Red Norvo, and the piano man Milt just had to have, Jess Stacy, was with Benny Goodman. Finally, all three bands were in New York. (The others were safely ensconced at Nick’s except Artie Shapiro, who was on 52nd Street.) Milt had the Brunswick studio booked for the day after Goodman’s already famous Carnegie Hall Concert, and even now, the session almost didn’t happen, for Benny had called an afternoon rehearsal. But Milt was on good terms with Benny, and his pleading yielded a cancellation.

Everyone was up for the occasion, and the music, quite unlike any other jazz being recorded at the time, set the pattern for the label: Free-wheeling but by no means unplanned music made by highly compatible players, in which solos and ensembles were of equal importance. As the “Windy City” indicates, the then much debated Chicago Style was a frame of reference or point of departure, but it was so as an approach to playing jazz — an attitude — rather than a stylistic blueprint. Moreover, while some of the players might be labeled “refugees” from the dominant big bands, the impact of Swing as a musical style (and of course there was small-band Swing as well) did make itself felt, willy-nilly, as in the not infrequent employment of riffs and a contemporary harmonic flavor. But written arrangements were eschewed and collective improvisation held in high esteem.

That Condon was the leader on this first Gabler session was right and proper. The two had the same idea about what a band should sound like, and Eddie was very much at home in a recording studio. The Condon name is inseparable from Commodore, and for the record, he was directly involved in many more of the label’s sessions than the ones under his (and Bud Freeman’s) name. In fact, the entire cast of this date would become Commodore regulars, so let’s spend some time with introductions right here.

At 31, Pee Wee Russell had recently returned to New York after a lengthy stretch with Louis Prima, documented on the Mosaic box devoted to that New Orleans-born trumpeter and his “landsman,” Wingy Manone. That association had begun at the very dawn of jazz on 52nd Street and ended with a big band in California — the great clarinetist’s next-to-last such involvement, doubling on alto sax. The final one would be with Bobby Hackett in 1939. (It may come as a surprise to some Pee Wee fans that he considered his years with Prima “my happiest days in the music business,” as he said when I told him I would be seeing the by now famous showman soon, adding that he “was a hell of a trumpet man.” When I knocked on Prima’s dressing room door after a long show that also featured his very pregnant wife Gia he was not pleased to see a reporter, but as soon as I brought him greetings from Pee Wee, his face lit up. “Pee Wee!” he almost shouted, “how is that old son-of-a-gun?” And, calming down, “that man is a genius! The greatest musician I ever worked with.”

Pee Wee's unique phrasing and sound made him instantly recognizable, in solo and ensemble; he was a master at both. His wide dynamic range — from whisper to shout — and his infinitely variable sounds — soft and cool, rough and hot, and all gradations in between — was combined with an equally varied emotional palette. His ear and his time were infallible….


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  the original Condons
The pix is of Condons on W. 3rd street likely mid to late 40s when Dave Tough was playing before George Wettlings reign. Another pix shows the front entrance to the club and the stairs . leading in
  Miss this one at your peril!
Im late with this review, having ordered it as soon as it was released, giving my copy the lowest number of any Mosaic set in my collection. This was one I didnt even know was in the works until it was suddenly in an e-mail sent out by Mosaic. And all I can say is wow! This eclipses the previous Condon-related Mosaic sets, as great as they were, for Eddie and the rest of the Nicksielanders were at the height of their powers in this era. The recordings crackle with energy, not with surface noise. Excellent transfers mean you hear the music in extraordinary fidelity for the era in which it was made. Bud, Pee Wee, Wild Bill, Max and the rest could be playing in your living room. If you passed on the Eddie Condon CBS sessions or the Columbia Condon Mob collection, dont miss this one! Here is some of the finest small-group jazz of its time — or any time.
  The Mob Rides Again
I dont know who labeled the Condon Mobs brand of jazz as urgency on the rocks, but that description fits most of the tracks on this compilation. Another critic noted that just as there are hard Boppers, there are hard Dixielanders, players who drive intensely, who are uncompromising and largely unsentimental, the kind heard here, although I understand these players deplored the term Dixieland. I suppose we learned to appreciate this kind of jazz through the Condon albums largely issued by Columbia back in the 50s. But what we couldnt know was that those records represented the twilight years of this kind of jazz as it would all but disappear by the 70s. So here we have the Condon bunch on records made in its glory years when the guys were playing before their largest audiences, in theaters, in clubs, on the radio and even TV. The collective enthusiasm was still intact and it shows in most of the performances here. And the sound is great. With three, four, or five front line musicians improvising together the ensembles could get pretty thick and chaotic. But you can hear every instrument with the rhythm sections having plenty of presence. You can even hear Condon to good advantage. He wont make you forget Freddie Green, but his rhythmic chop tended to bring these very individualistic players together and make them sound like a band. Some mild criticism. For me the Bud Freeman trios dont really come off. Throughout most of them Freeman displays the least attractive aspects of his style: a sand paper edge, overuse of slick whirligig figures and punchy, percussive phrasing. In this context Bud doesnt really swing - he just hops along. Fortunately Freeman plays differently on the full band sides, employing a lean pale gray tone akin to Prez and Eddie Miller with more legato phasing. Wettling is often too busy on the trio tracks. The performances would have had a more together feel if he had laid down a nice carpet of time. But Stacey takes care of business keeping things together, and its his blues saturated figures and tremolos that your ears seek out. Some of the later Decca sides with their partial arrangements, emphasis on vocals and limited space for improvisation, sound like Gablers dumbed-down-Dixie attempts at a more commercial market. Still the guys do their best to keep things as raucous as possible and the singers are not as atrocious as Morgenstern makes out. But what do I know? I liked the way Eddie Condon himself used to sing. The so-called comic skits, Private Jives I and II, prove that not all humor supposedly hip can readily be translated to later generations. Youll like the Bing Crosby tracks. Too bad there arent more. The crooner sounds as if hes lying on a hammock in your back yard, while Condon and his buddies are churning things up next door. A nice contrast. If you have the other two Mosaic Condon sets youll want this one. While theres still some Dixieland or traditional jazz around, you dont hear this brand of the music much anymore. When these guys cut out they took the music with them. Better latch on to this one while you can.
  April is almost ended.
Your ad says this set will be ready to ship near the end of April. Whats the problem? Ive already approved payment for this set.
  How much longer until this one ships?
What is taking so long to get this set to be shipped?
  Had to check this against the JSP Condon Box
So I have been in love with Eddie Condon The Classic Sessions: 1928 to 1949 remastered by John RT Davies and out on the JSP label. I was worried that this set and that one might kind of cancel each other out... but I went through the songs and dates and it seems that there is very little overlap at all. I am so excited, this will surely be one of the best releases of the year. As with all Mosaic sets, Im really looking forward to reading some stories in the booklet as well as listening to this music!

Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman: Complete Commodore & Decca Sessions (#259)
Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman: Complete Commodore & Decca Sessions (#259)
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies
8 CDs - $136.00

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