Indeed Lombardi’s compilation covers, intentionally so, the breadth of Condon’s work from the 1920’s to the 1960’s as well. Though Condon infrequently featured himself as the soloist, he certainly was the catalyst, putting together the bands, memorable and energetic, throughout the decades, and his stints as announcer or producer provided consistency for the recordings, keeping the level of quality and vitality at high levels. His introductions, generous and witty, kept audiences attracted to the music and personalized the musicians he included in the broadcasts.
Although the early recording with Red Nichols’ Five Pennies remain without the full spectrum of sonic values that later recordings with more sophisticated sound engineering provided, they do mark the progression of not only Condon’s career, but also that of other musicians associated with him through the years, including Pee Wee Russell. Throughout the middle third of the twentieth century, Condon’s enthusiasm for the music remained unflagging and he remained, fortunately for listeners, prolific as well, attracting notable talent for unforgettable recordings.
While Condon listeners are familiar with the musicians who usually played with him most of whom are included on Eddie Condon: Rare & Unissued Items 1929-1968 the additional value of the CD consists of its surprises. For one, there is Johnny Mercer, of all people, singing "Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll" during Condon’s Floor Show in 1948. Then there is Ralph Sutton in 1952, not only playing during one of Condon’s WMGM Dr. Jazz shows, but also performing two solos on the CD, "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Avalon." During a televised tribute to Condon in 1965, who but Willie "The Lion" Smith should appear, along with Wild Bill Davison, Billy Butterfield, Vic Dickenson and Edmond Hall to play "Jazz Me Blues." During a swinging version of "Chicago" on the TV show, not only does Thelma Carpenter pay tribute to Condon’s influence, but also Sammy Davis Jr. does too, as does Wingy Malone in gutbucket blues style. During the 1968 show at Chicago’s Jazz Alley, the unexpected standout isn’t one of the horn players, but pianist Art Hodes during a hard-charging stride solo.
For Condon enthusiasts who seek a compact and representative sampling of his music, as well as hearing previously unreleased tracks, Eddie Condon: Rare & Unissued Items 1929-1968 offers an economical and valuable addition to his discography.