This LP covers Calloway’s recordings between 1933 and 1945 when he led various personnel in big bands and was the lead singer and major attraction. Primarily an entertainer, his popular singing caught the mood of the times and he was a well-known character on the big band scene. He often shared billing with the likes of Duke Ellington and other jazz bands at places like The Cotton Club and The Savoy Ballroom in NYC.
He wasn’t really a jazz singer in the strictest sense but his slurred and twisted vocals seemed to fit into the orchestras he fronted and those bands had people like Chu Berry, Ben Webster, Milt Hinton and Cozy Cole in the ranks over the years covered by this set. Dizzy Gillespie also played in one of Cab’s bands but, along with a few others experimenting with new harmonic ideas, he did not please his leader. He told guitarist Danny Barker “I don’t want you playing that Chinese music in my band”. However, he did do his own version with “Chop, Chop, Charlie Chan”.
This collection includes many of his big hits, including “Minnie the Moocher”, “The Honeydripper” and “St James Infirmary”, where his personnel style is most evident. On “The Moocher” he croons his famous hi-de-ho which, he admitted, was only put in originally to cover up the fact that he had forgotten the lyrics. It caught on, was popular with audiences and stayed with him for the rest of his career. His singing was certainly stylised and he had a powerful voice which, with the very good big band he always had behind him, went down very well.
The band was always swinging, and the brief tenor and trumpet solos throughout this collection are just enough to keep the attention and interest of jazz enthusiasts and that voice of his was always fascinating. No personnel are listed but the musicians mentioned above were more than likely in the ranks at one time or another during these recordings.
St. James Infirmary; The Honeydripper; Blues in the Night; Miss Otis Regrets; Chop, Chop, Charlie Chan; The Jumpin’ Jive; Minnie the Moocher; The Ghost of Smoky Joe; Let’s Take the Long Way Home; Utt Da Zay; Geechy Joe; Eadie Was a Lady ( 32.24)
Cab Calloway (v); no personnel listed. 1933-1945
Epic LN 3265, from Pure Pleasure, vinyl