The first superstar of the drums, Gene Krupa was a popular, charismatic and influential figure in jazz. Krupa not only played in The Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet, one of the first "mixed" (i.e., black + white) groups in jazz history, but he played with darn near EVERYbody (Billie Holliday, Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller, Tommy Dorsey); at a time (1945) when nearly all the big-time Swing Era big bands were closing up shop, Krupa got a new orchestra together and kept it going until 1951; and when most of the Old Guard of jazz and pop music greeted this strange new style called Bebop with hostility, Krupa welcomed its influence. To top it off, the late Sal Mineo ("Rebel Without A Cause") portrayed him in a Hollywood biopic.
While not innovative, this late-period Krupa aggregation produced some nifty, superbly crafted, good-time music. The music collected here reflects the pivotal time in which it was recorded: as big bands declined, singers ascended, so there’s some sentimental, creamy-smooth balladry a la the mid-40s output of Ol’ Blue Eyes (Frankie or Mr. Sinatra to you, mac), as evidenced here by the suave yet boyish Frankie-esque vocals of Buddy Stewart and the bluesy-sweet Mildred Bailey-like Carolyn Gray. There’s even some wordless vocal group bebopery that laid the groundwork for Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. The brainy, un-danceable sounds of bebop were shaking up the jazz world, and so a young Gerry Mulligan contributed some mercurially modern arrangements, and the band recorded proto-bopper George Wallington’s "Lemon Drop" (which also displays a bit of Latin/Afro-Cuban influence) and the previously unreleased semi-novelty "To Be or Not To Be Bop." Sharp, dynamically arranged swing had not yet run its course: behold the boisterous "Disc Jockey Jump" and the genial dancefloor swinger "How High The Moon." Krupa never abandoned his Chicago Dixieland roots - note the blistering small-group versions of "Limehouse Blues" and "Stompin’ At The Savoy."
If you’re a big band/Swing Era aficionado or a Krupa fan looking to get the big fellow’s Columbia Records-era (1945-49) stuff on CD, this is the place - a single disc almost 80 minutes (!!!) in length with fine sound quality, and three previously unreleased tracks in the bargain. My only serious complaint: no personnel listings [?!?]- but the liner notes do mention some of the important players therein. If you’re a recent convert to big band swing and wonder who-next to pick up on after you’ve explored Basie, Ellington, Goodman and Shaw (oh yeah, Fletcher Henderson, too!), again: the right place.