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Jumpin at Apollo by Illinois Jacquet

Illinois Jacquet was one of the great tenor men in an era of great tenorists. His immortal recording of "Flying Home," cut with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra when Jacquet was 19, was the litmus test for big band-era saxophonists. He’s still at it in his 80s and still reportedly a monster player.

For these 23 cuts (including a couple of alternate takes) recorded for Apollo in 1945, ’46 and ’47, his first dates as a leader, Jacquet was still a young man. He had already put in time with Cab Calloway and Count Basie (the lead-off cut is his "Diggin’ The Count") following the Hampton stint. His propensity to work the upper register often gave his tenor an alto-like quality. Indeed, there are tunes here that are reminiscent of Charlie Parker. Listen to the title cut, for instance. With 52nd Street written all over it, it benefits greatly from fellow Basie-ite Joe Newman’s sizzling trumpet. Jacquet certainly could rock it in the Louis Jordan mold, too, as on "What’s This," "12-Minutes To Go" and other numbers throughout the collection.

"Wondering Aloud And Thinking Of You" and "Here Comes The Blues" are the most conspicuous examples of blues on the set, with vocals by the great Wynonie Harris, though blues is at the core of everything Illinois ever did, from the hard honkin’ bar-walkers to the ballads. Harris checks in with his classic "Wynonie’s Blues," as well.

"Memories of You" proves Jacquet’s faculty with the ballad. Next to Johnny Hodges, he may have been ‘the man’. There are many instances of his prowess with candle-light and sax melodies on the collection.

Big names a-plenty appear on this phenomenal disc, including Charles Mingus, Freddie Green, Bill Doggett, Leo Parker, Denzil Best, and Sir Charles Thompson. The star of the show here is Illinois Jacquet, though. The man was on fire for these dates. You’ll find no finer example of the crossroads between small band jazz, be-bop and nascent R&B than is found on this extraordinary collection. This is the deal for real. Whew!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Illinois Jacquet
  • CD Title: Jumpin at Apollo
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Delmark
  • Rating: Five Stars
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