The John Kirby concert at Symphony Hall this Thursday doesn't seem to have any pretensions to the importance of the Ellington one, but it should be entertaining. Kirby's bunch has long since ceased to raise my blood pressure, but the rest of the program is very promising.
There are Pete Johnson and Al Ammons, two of the original boogie boys. If you're tired of hearing the tone-deaf boogie players who haunt the Common Rooms, you might enjoy hearing the stuff played the way it should be played.
Ella Fitzgerald is also promised. While her singing of late is-not on the same level as in the old Chick Webb days, Ella is still, for my money, worth a baker's dozen of Dinah Shores and Helen O'Connells.
Hazel Scott was slated, but fortunately couldn't make it. Any substitute would be an improvement, and Una Mac Carlisle is a very great one. She's a protege of Fats Waller, contributing mightily to his classic record of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Una is no world-better as a pianist, but she is a fine singer.
If Ellington keeps poking his head in, it's because he keeps making news. This time it's in the form of two fine albums of re-issue, one Victor and one Brunswick, now a Decca subsidiary. The Brunswick has the edge in quality, and the advantage of having many sides unavailable for more than ten years. "Birmingham Breakdown" is remarkable for being the only Ellington with a Dixieland breakdown ending, and "Wall Street Wail" has always been one of my favorites.
Then again, the Brunswick records are twenty five cents more cache, and the surfaces are the same miserable Decca surfaces. In addition, three titles are duplicated in the two albums though the performances are different: "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," "The Mooche," and "Mood Indigo," The first two should be in every collection because of Bubber Miley's fabulous growl trumpet.
Distinctive in the Victor album are "Stompy Jones" and "Warm Valley." The only real drawback is that they switched sides in re-issuing, so that on back of a number you don't have is one you probably do.
Brunswick announces as forthcoming a Red Nichols album, featuring the early work of Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Joe Sullivan, Babe Rusin and others. Also a Pine-Top Smith album, with four sides by the supposed originator of b--g--e--w--g--c, one of which has not been reissued before. It is a pity that the only really issued before. It is a pity that the only really other records besides jazz, has the poorest surfaces. But they do make money without playing cheap tricks on record collectors