The two new Brunswick reissues mentioned a few weeks ago have just come in. In both cases, Red Nichols and Pine Top Smith, the music is as fine as the surfaces are terrible. In addition, the seventy-five cents price is too much, even for second masters. The higher tariff would be justified by good surfaces, but in the present instance, it's pure inflation.
The Red Nichols album is astonishly good. A lot of people, including myself, have decried Nichols in comparison with his fellow-cornetist, Bix Beiderbecke, but in the company of such stars as Goodman, Teagarden, Krupa, etc., he plays above himself. There's still a lot of repression and self-consciousness, but there's also a good beat and a few good ideas. I wouldn't dare play Teschemacher's "China Boy" afterward, but the album is full of good, ripe jazz.
The Pine Top album is even more tempting, particularly as it consists of only two records. The first one, "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" and "Pine Top's Blues" however, has been reissued previously by UMCA-Commodore for the same price, if you can find it. PT, as you probably know, is one of the acknowledged originators of BW, though there is still plenty of argument going on. Regardless of whether he did or didn't, Pine Top is undeniably one of the most remarkable jazz pianists. His BW is strong and flexible, but it never skims the surface like Kenneth Kersey or smashes the piano into kindling like Ammons or Johnson.
The most interesting sides, though, are "I'm Sober Now" and "Jump Steady Blues" for the evocation of the gin mill atmosphere. PT acts out whole scenes while he's playing, taking all the parts, and the result is one of the most amazing jazz records ever made. On these sides he plays straight barrelhouse piano, miles ahead of the crabbed, primitive style of Jimmie Yancey and the ragtime of Jelly Roll Morton, proving that if he had lived, Pine Top might have revolutionized jazz piano. Even so, his style is completely up to date, regardless of the date, 1928. The recording is astonishingly faithful, too.