The Esquire All Stars: I Got Rhythm

Track

I Got Rhythm

Group

The Esquire All Stars

CD

Esquire All Stars: At the Met, Volume 2 (Arpeggio Jazz)

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Musicians:

Red Norvo (xylophone), Art Tatum (piano), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Jack Teagarden (trombone), Sid Catlett (drums), Oscar Pettiford (bass), Louis Armstrong (trumpet), Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Al Casey (guitar).

Composed by George and Ira Gerswhin

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Recorded: Metropolitan Opera House, New York, January 18, 1944

Albumcoveresquireallstarsv2

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

The time was January 1944, and the first bebop band (led by Dizzy Gillespie) had just been hired on 52nd Street. Meanwhile the masters of the old school were assembled at the Metropolitan Opera House, blissfully ignorant of the cataclysmic changes that would transform the jazz world over the next several years.

But let's forget the coming revolution for a moment, and instead enjoy the world that was about to end. The greatest soloists of early 20th-century jazz are assembled on a single stage, and engage in some gentlemanly one-upmanship on the most familiar jam session chord changes of the day, courtesy of George Gershwin. Everybody has a chance to shine, but I especially like Eldridge (who seems inspired by his chance to go toe-to-toe with Louis Armstrong), the drumming of Sid Catlett, who energizes the whole proceedings, and the lead-off soloist on the track, the underappreciated Red Norvo. And what a delight hearing Art Tatum, pulled out of the solo and trio settings where he could run roughshod over his accompanists and forced to adjust to a roomful of talents—and egos—as large as his own. If I could bring back one rhythm section from the era for a command fantasy performance, it might very well be this Tatum-Catlett-Pettiford unit.

I am reminded here of the claims of ardent medievalists, who will tell you that the waning of the Middle Ages was a time in which many great things came to fruition, and that the Renaissance spoiled much of the beauty of what went before. You could make a similar case for this final flowering of Swing Era majesty, put on display at this historic concert. Soon these same players would be considered passé, but you would never guess it by listening to this performance, which represents a type of perfection that bop and free and all the other later styles can never dispel. They got rhythm.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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  • 1 elliott olenick // Mar 30, 2009 at 02:11 PM
    I missplaced my record jazz at the opera house esquire all stars 1944 the jacket had info on the vote of players classified by instrument and vocalsts ect were could I purchase this record