Cab Calloway and his Orchestra
1938-1939; 1940 (Classics)
Copyright (C) Thomas L. Morgan 1992. All rights reserved.
When it comes to the "King of Hi-Di-Ho," Classics Records new series of rereleases beats all previous reissues hands down. This European label has put together 6 CDs, chronologically covering Calloway's career from 1930 to 1940. The review covers the last two CDs in the series.
Cab Calloway was a prolific recording artist; his material went from the sappiest ballads to the hippest novelties. Most who have seen this veteran perform would agree that there has never been a more animated jazz singer and band leader on stage. Cab's orchestra was always top notch and featured some of the premier soloists of the day.
Each of the last two CDs in the series contain over 22 tracks. The is no repetition of material (i.e. take 1, take 2, etc.) and very little of the music has been rereleased in the last 15 years. Calloway is at his best with novelty tunes and the two CDs have a dearth of that kind of material. There's Peck-A-Doodle-Do, a now forgotten dance that has you strutting like a rooster and Who's Yehoodi?, a question I'm sure everyone asks. Throw in Papa's In Bed With His Britches On and Mister Paganini-Swing For Minnie and you might be getting the picture. Also included are rhumba and conga tunes as well as boogie woogie and jumps. Top it all of with such nonsensical tracks as Yo Eta Cansa and Ad-De-Dey.
The orchestra is adorned by such great side men as Chu Berry, Doc Cheatham, De Priest Wheeler and Milt Hinton. Some of the arrangements are done by Benny Carter and Don Redman. It's also worth mentioning that there are 22 cuts featuring young Dizzy Gillespie before Cab kicked him out of the band for throwing a spit ball.
The Classics CDs are a little hard to find but can be acquired by clicking here. Every one of the releases in this series is dedicated to the finest African-American orchestras of the late 20s through the early 40s and, for my money, that is some of the best jazz ever made.