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Jazz - Released January 1, 1958 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)


Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Capitol Records

By the time that Les Brown signed with Capitol Records in the mid-'50s he had already become an internationally acclaimed clarinet and sax player as well as bandleader for nearly two decades. This single CD compilation gathers over two dozen tracks cut during the brief three-year stint (1955-1958) that Brown and his Band of Renown spent recording for Capitol Records. Although primarily known as a big band dance combo, Brown and company were much more jazz-oriented and improvisational than their swing contemporaries. However, they never lost their ability to keep dancers on their feet, as evidenced by their innumerable accolades from the popularity polls in Downbeat and Metronome magazines as well as the coveted Ballroom Operators Association. Much of the unqualified success that Brown retained during the burgeoning days of the rock & roll revolution was due to his association with arrangers such as Ben Homer, Wes Hensel, Skip Martin, and his primary collaborator, Frank Comstock. They keep the arrangements of pop standards "My Blue Heaven," "Tangerine," "Moonlight in Vermont," and "Shine on Harvest Moon," as well as the show tune "This Was Nearly Mine" -- from South Pacific -- light, easy, and deceptively unencumbered. The prowess of the various incarnations of the Band of Renown should not be underestimated either. The laid-back solo styles of Donn Trenner (piano) and Brown (clarinet) carry the combo with a sophisticated air borne in the spirit of the big bands. For example, "Frenesi" retains the large, elegant orchestration while simultaneously bearing the loose, metronomic quality of a jazz band. The same can be said of Comstock's tight brass arrangements, most specifically on "Just You, Just Me" and the definitive reading of "Harlem Nocturne." Also notable is the crystalline sound quality throughout the package, which is the first in the CD realm to have accessed the original session tapes and remastered them with an ear for the audiophile's attention to detail and nuance. ~ Lindsay Planer

Jazz - Released April 1, 1961 | Columbia - Legacy


Lounge - Released June 3, 2016 | Memorylane


Jazz - Released July 1, 2016 | Swing Rewind Records


Jazz - Released April 1, 1962 | Columbia - Legacy


Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Fantasy Records

To celebrate his 50th anniversary as a bandleader, Les Brown recorded what would be his only American record of the 1980s. This CD, which has 16 selections, mostly sticks to veteran standards, although fortunately there are no remakes of earlier hits or any attempts at outright nostalgia. Among the main soloists during the instrumental set are trumpeter Don Rader, trombonist Andy Martin. and guitarist Mundell Lowe. Jack Sperling drives the band on drums and two of Brown's earliest players (bass trombonist Stumpy Brown and baritonist Butch Stone) were still playing their parts, although neither gets to solo or sing. This is a decent set that makes one wish that Les Brown had recorded more jazz during the past 30 years. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released April 1, 1962 | Columbia - Legacy


Jazz - Released January 1, 1959 | EMI Gold

The Les Brown band of the late '50s was a match for his classic group of the 1940s, which makes this re-recording of his classic sides in hi-fi all the more enjoyable. Freed from the constraints of early- to mid-'40s studio technology, and using Capitol's then state-of-the-art studios, the band generates rocking, glistening, and occasionally steamy boiling jazz-inflected pop. The soloists obviously have a great time working on tape, with none of the three-minutes-and-change time constraints that existed on lacquer masters, although one wishes that they had stretched out a little more to show what they could really do -- one of the places where you do get some of that on this album is "Midnight Sun," which is worth the price of admission by itself but could have been even greater with some different ambition. Alas, Capitol and Brown were evidently only aiming to satisfy his existing audience rather than cultivate new listeners -- but they still gave everyone more than they bargained for on this and a handful of other tracks here. The rest is all beautifully played pop-instrumental dance music, and well worth hearing five decades later, as much as Brown's '40s material. ~ Bruce Eder

Jazz - Released April 24, 2015 | Music Manager

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Jazz - Released June 20, 2013 | Hindsight Records