Billy Eckstine & His Orchestra (1945) MP3/Flac

altBilly Eckstine was quite a pivotal figure in the mid-'40s in that he led one of the first bop swing bands. He cut a powerful path through jazz for a period of almost three years starting late in 1944 and breaking up permanently early in 1947. He had the misfortune of recording during this period for two small, obscure labels, Deluxe and National, who were not privy to a supply of high quality shellac and as a result some wonderful music was heard under fairly primitive circumstances on their commercial releases. Yet another small budget label, the Alamac Record Company, that specialized in airchecks and old transcriptions, obtained these broadcast performances from somewhere and released them probably sometime in the '60s. They were recorded at the old Plantation Club in Los Angeles, a venue for big bands in the '40s.

Most of the writing for the band was done by Jerry Valentine, Budd Johnson, John Malachi and free-lancer Tadd Dameron. In addition to some fine charts the brilliance of Fats Navarro is heard on "Airmail Special", "Opus X" and "Love Me Or Leave Me". John Jackson, Charlie Parker's section mate in the old Jay McShann band, plays the alto solos in a similar style and the tenor work is evenly divided between veteran Budd Johnson and the then up-and-coming Gene Ammons, son of boogie woogie pianist Albert Ammons. In fact Eckstine made the band a fountainhead for young musicians who would reshape jazz by the end of the decade, including Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, and Fats Navarro.

Then of course there's young Sarah Vaughan sharing the vocals with Eckstine himself.

In reflecting on the band in his 1979 autobiography "To Be or Not to Bop", Dizzy Gillespie places it in perspective: "There was no band that sounded like Billy Eckstine's. Our attack was strong and we were playing bebop, the modern style. No other band like this one existed in the world."

Side 1:
01) Blowing The Blues Away
02) I Wanna Talk About You
03) Together
04) Mean To Me
05) Without A Song
06) Mr. Chips

Side 2:
01) Airmail Special
02) Don't Blame Me
03) If That's The Way You Feel
04) Opus X
05) Love Me Or Leave Me