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The Everest Years by Charlie Barnet

They called him "Wild Mab." (There's a story behind that fishpond tune!) Charlie Barnet was independently wealthy, much-married and larger than life. At 16 he was a bandleader - on an ocean liner. His freewheeling and rambunctious 1939-1941 big band, with arrangements by Billy May and Barnet, was considered "the blackest of the white bands." He wanted the group to sound like Ellington and they often did. Barnet admired Basie and the feeling was mutual. When the Barnet charts were destroyed by fire at the Palomar Ballroom, Basie loaned his.

It was a down time for big bands when Barnet brought this all-star orchestra into the Everest studios in the late fifties. (Woody had done the same thing, documented in the previously reviewed Woody Herman - The Everest Years .) This current CD combines the Cherokee date of August 1958 and More , recorded in 1959, and includes the original Nat Hentoff liner notes. These two releases were previously reissued as separate CDs by Evidence Music in 1993.

The Cherokee tracks feature an exuberant band in updated versions (many by Bill Holman) of most of the original Barnet hits, including those famous barn burners, "Cherokee/Redskin Rhumba" and "Skyliner." Barnet is ever present with his full-throated Hawkins-influenced tenor, and rare for the times, inspired soprano playing, particularly on "Charleston Alley." And dig those conversations! Both vocal (Bunny Briggs boppin' with the band on "East Side, West Side") and instrumental (Barnet and Clark Terry back and forth on "Pompton Turnpike") There's no let up in intensity on the only ballad, "Serenade to May," with eloquent solos by Barnet on alto (sounding quite Hodges-like) and Billy Byers. Nat Pierce, Charlie Shavers, and the band have the Basie touch down just right on "Moten" as they salute the Count.

In the More tracks, a dozen swinging Holman charts allow the 1959 edition of the band to take a fresh approach to big band themes and familiar standards. For a new sound Barnet laid down his tenor sax in favor of alto and soprano. He is lyrical on "Darn That Dream." Besides Barnet, the main soloists were Charlie Shavers and Billy Byers. Shavers is remarkable. He is fiery on "Begin The Beguine" and his interpretation of "I Can't Get Started" will make even the most enthusiastic Berigan fans sit up and take notice. And those sections. So together! Check out the musicianship of the reeds on "Early Autumn" and "Midnight Sun."

To quote Charlie Barnet: " The band business was a romping, stomping thing, and everybody was swinging, and I can't help but think back to the boys in the band - it was a happy band and even with the one-nighters it was a ball." This CD is proof!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Charlie Barnet
  • CD Title: The Everest Years
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Empire
  • Rating: Five Stars
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