Joe Bushkin Quartet Featuring Stuff Smith: Live Embers 1964 ~Plus Stuff Smith C. 1966 Copenhagen Solos
Pelote, Vincent, ARSC Journal
Joe Bushkin Quartet featuring Stuff Smith: Live Embers 1964 ~Plus Stuff Smith c. 1966 Copenhagen Solos. AB Fable ABCD1-022.
Let's Listen to Lucidin Presents: Stuff Smith And His Lucidin Orchestra featuring Ella Fitzgerald. AB Fable ABCD1-024. (Both available through North Country, Cadence Building, Redwood, NY 13679-3194. (www.cadencebuilding.com)
Anthony Barnett never ceases to amaze. Just when you think he could not possibly find any more previously unreleased recorded material by violinist Stuff Smith, he comes up with these two CDs. ABCD1-022 features Smith with pianist/trumpeter Joe Bushkin in a "live" 1964 performance from the Embers in NYC, and a tape from 1966 of solo violin, ABCD1-024 finds Smith leading a big hand in 1937 and taking part in a series of radio broadcasts hawking an eye lotion product.
The Embers was a nightclub on 54th Street in Manhattan. It flourished as a venue for soloists and small groups from the late 1940s into the 1960s. Bushkin was no stranger to the club, since he served as its house pianist in the early 1950s. The quartet of Smith, Bushkin, bassist Whitey Mitchell (subbing for Milt Hinton) and drummer Jo Jones was in residency in 1964. The sets consist of medleys and are showcases primarily for Bushkin's excellent piano work. In fact, you don't hear one note of Smith's violin until a little over 18 minutes into the CD, when he is featured on "Chicago." Smith can then be heard playing obbligatos on "California, Here I Come" (a splendid feature for the remarkable Jo Jones) and "Manhattan," where Bushkin switches to trumpet (sounding very much like Ruby Braff). The violinist's nest featured number is "My Blue Heaven" followed by another medley consisting of a Smith original (titled "Play" on this CD but also known as "Timme's Blues") and "Pennies from Heaven," Smith plays on both numbers, with Bushkin laying out on the first and switching to trumpet on the second. The piano trio performs on the final medley with Smith making one last appearance on Charlie Shavers' "Undecided," which is actually a feature for Mitchell. Overall, I found the Embers material interesting but disappointing for the paucity of Smith. According to Smith's wife, as Barnett points out in his liner notes, the Embers residency was difficult for the violinist, but she wouldn't elaborate.
What rescues this CD for the Smith fans disappointed by the Embers material is the 1966 tape from Copenhagen that has Smith playing solo violin on what is titled "Sketches for a Symphony," and described by Barnett as "a thematically linked suite of several of his compositions, including a co-composition with [Robert] Crum, 'Waltz With Me,' and what may conceivably he a variation or two on classical studies," The pieces are 3hort and some, like "Skip It," will be very familiar to fans of the violinist, I found this to be over 14 minutes of pure bliss that ended too soon. …