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Rare & Unissued Items: 1929-1968 by Eddie Condon

While it may seem that Eddie Condon’s performances have been exhaustively recorded, such is not the case. After all, the Classics series has documented Condon’s early Chicago work to his popularity in New York; Jazzology has released a continuing series of albums from Condon’s Town Hall concerts; Storyville makes available Condon’s Dr. Jazz radio shows; and even recently Mosaic has compiled a five-CD box set of Condon performances with Dixieland greats, including a memorable concert at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. But now from Italy come even more Condon performances, previously unreleased, that Condonologist Giorgio Lombardi of the Italian Jazz Institute in Genova acquired from private collectors and at auctions. The fact that Eddie Condon still inspires devoted listening around the world 36 years after his passing provides evidence of his universal appeal as he produced unforgettable traditional jazz performances by some of the genre’s leading musicians, even as Dixieland was fading in popularity.

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.

Don Williamson

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Eddie Condon
  • CD Title: Rare & Unissued Items: 1929-1968
  • Genre: Traditional / New Orleans
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Italian Jazz Institute
  • Tracks: Ida, Whispering, Nobody’s Sweetheart, Who Cares, China Boy, At the Jazz Band Ball, Jazz Me Blues, Peg of My Heart, At the Jazz Band Ball, I Want a Butter and Egg Man, Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll, Someday Sweetheart, Sweet and Lovely, Ballin’ the Jack, Honeysuckle Rose, Avalon, Bill Bailey, Eccentric, Jazz Me Blues, Chicago, Ballin’ the Jack, Royal Garden Blues
  • Musicians: Eddie Condon (guitar, banjo, vocals); Red Nichols, Bobby Hackett (trumpet); Wild Bill Davison (cornet); Herb Taylor, George Brunis, Brad Gowans, Miff Mole, Billy Butterfield, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Vic Dickenson, Wingy Manone, Smokey Stover, J.C. Higginbotham (trombone); P.W. Russell, Ernie Caceres, Sterling Mole, Muggsy Spanier, Edmund Hall, Tony Parenti (clarinet); Art Hodes, Gene Schroeder, Jess Stacy, Dick Carey, Ralph Sutton, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Hank Duncan (piano); Bob Casey, Bob Haggart. Jack Lesberg, Al Hall, Rails Wilson (bass); Sid Catlett, Joe Grauso, George Wettling, Buzzy Drootin, Cliff Leeman, Harry Hawthorne (drums); Johnny Mercer, Thelma Carpenter, Sammy Davis Jr. (vocals)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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