"Jukebox Jazz!" is a culmination of tracks from the Parrot and Blue Lake labels that included a range of well known to down right obscure musicians playing rhythm and blues and jazz from the other side of the sixties. This Chicago-based label decided to issue 45 RPM singles instead of long-playing records and compete with the then emerging rock n’ roll. These three minute wonders inevitably ended up on jukeboxes and played in bars. They have never appeared before on an LP, let alone a CD. Some of the pieces are trying as a whiff of stale perfume but many are lasting as a film noir classic. Every tune feels dipped and soaked in a double Manhattan.
The collection begins with Jimmy Rushing’s autobiographical ‘Mr. Five By Five’ followed by the suffering flipside, ‘Clothes Pin Blues.’ Both are gut-check gritty. Herbie Field’s ‘Harlem Nocturne’ is restless; the sax sounds other worldly and slightly eerie like a lost Twilight Zone episode. ‘I’ll Follow My Secret Heart’ features the always magnificent Coleman Hawkins but a vocal ensemble is the stumbling block; it may explain why rock eventually prevailed. Get me off this elevator. The Benson-Ogilvie Band on ‘Uptown Stomp’ is a brilliant and irresistible boogie-woogie. Red Saunders’ ‘Summertime’ has a pseudo-exotic pulse that is unusual and off-kilter. You can almost smell the hairspray on Saunders’ bouncing ‘Riverboat.’ Featuring the Lonnie Simmons Quartet, ‘Black Orchid’ opens with a solemn organ that is somewhere between a carnival and a funeral. Joe Williams’ ‘In the Evening’ features a guitar that sounds like T-Bone Walker. William’s baritone is rich as the trumpet is wild. The collection ends with King Fleming Quintette’s grand ‘One O’Clock Jump’ featuring a vocal trio including the sublime Lorez Alexandria.
"Jukebox Jazz!" may be the first of a series of reclusive hits from a jukebox era that has faded from popular memory. The Eagle’s Club is long gone, but this collection is enduring. The music is frequently dazzling, sometimes odd, always fascinating.