Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"biggest little band in the land" - The John Kirby Sextet - Inner City & Classic Jazz Release

A new release by Inner City & Classic Jazz is the "Biggest Little Band in the Land" featuring the John Kirby Sextet.

Classic Jazz Records says this regarding their new CD and the John Kirby Sextet.

"Occupying a very small slice of jazz history, the years 1937 thru 1944 with the players listed, defined what a superb artistry and cohesion to an extraordinary extent, could mean in jazz. The war years of the 40s decimated the membership and this exquisite ensemble was no more. Happily these recordings exist and are now once again available to jazz fans. You'll never hear jazz the same way again."

The group heard is made up of John Kirby on bass, Charlie Shavers playing trumpet, Russell Procope on Alto sax, Buster Bailey playing clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano and playing the drums is O'Neil Spencer. The twenty-four tunes on the album are all from the years 1941, 1943 and 1944.

John Kirby is said to have been born on December 31, 1908. He was orphaned as a child and was already in New York playing music by the mid-1920s. He started out on trombone moved on to the tuba and settled on the double-bass.

1937 proved to be an important year for Kirby and his band. They began playing the Onyx Club and recording. Their swing version of Loch Lomond proved to be a hit and he and his band would see success through most of the 40s.

By 1950, however, things had changed. Kirby suffered ill heath from diabetes and drinking. His audience had declined, with concert at Carnegie Hall in December to a porr turnout.
He died on June 14, 1952 in California as he was planning for a comeback. Fortunately, his recordings of his groups live on. In 1993 John Kirby was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

Nat Hentoff said this about the music of the Biggest Little Band in the Land:

"At the time, it was a phenomenon unlike any other in jazz. A unit which was so together that other musicians would come to marvel at the collective precision of it all - the subtlety of dynamics, the stunning ensemble virtuosity, the way the soloist was so integral a part of the continually floating, soaring, driving, whizzing whole. This was cool jazz before anyone had thought of the term, before Miles Davis and those Capitol recordings. This was a prototype of how disciplined jazz could be before the Modern Jazz Quartet. This was John Kirby." 


An interesting BBC radio program Jazz Legends from 2003.

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