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The New Mayfair Dance Orchestra "Back To Those Happy Days" (Dutton-Vocalion, 2003)

The New Mayfair Dance Orchestra "Encore" (Dutton-Vocalion)
Directed by bandleader Carroll Gibbons...

Red Nichols & His Five Pennies "Rhythm Of The Day" (ASV, 1983)
Mellow, uptown Dixie-trad, with fatter, more luxurious arrangements. These amiable, toot-toot-tootling 1920s instrumentals may not have been pushing the way towards the breakneck breakthroughs of bebop, but they are fun to listen to, and a welcome contrast to the "hot bands" of the time.

Red Nichols & His Five Pennies "That's A Bargain!" (ASV-Living Era, 2005)

Red Nichols "The Chronological Red Nichols: 1925-1927" (Classics)

Red Nichols "The Chronological Red Nichols: 1927-1928" (Classics)

Red Nichols "The Chronological Red Nichols: 1928-1929" (Classics)

Red Nichols "The Chronological Red Nichols: 1929" (Classics)

Red Nichols "The Chronological Red Nichols: 1929-1930" (Classics)

Gertrude Niesen "My Best Wishes: 1933-1938 Issued Recordings" (Flyright/Vintage Jazz Band, 2000)

Gertrude Niesen "I Wanna Get Married" (Flyright/Vintage Jazz Band, 2002)
Campy torch song cabaret material, from a gal whose husky, mumbly vocals don't do much for me. These 1930s, '40s recordings have their moments -- the title track and similar novelty material being the highlights -- but this seems more like a find for old-school drag queens than for devotees of prime big band material. As seen here, Niesen worked with a wide variety of lesser bandleaders, Leo Reisman being the best-known of the lot. This is okay, but I didn't go wild over it.

Ray Noble "The Complete World Transcriptions" (Soundies, 1999)
These later (1940-41) recordings of British "sweet band" leader Ray Noble leading the second of his American orchestras may feel a bit fusty for most jazz fans. Although his first band, from the mid-'30s, was a proving ground for many of America's best dance band leaders --notably Glenn Miller, who picked up on Noble's fastidious perfectionism -- Noble himself never quite made the leap into full-on American-style big band. Thus these recordings sound a bit old-fashioned and cerebral, as Noble tries out different compositional jokes and musical notions. He doesn't quite recapture the effervescent twee of his older work, nor the rugged mania of the Stateside swing scene, but it's still an interesting footnote to an influential career.

Jimmie Noone "Apex Blues: The Original Decca Recordings" (MCA/GRP, 1994)
Sweet, joyous, fat-toned romps through the early landscape of New Orleans trad. These 1920s recordings feature pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines along with clarinetist Jimmie Noone, who had an uncommonly clean, rich tone. Along with the bouncy instrumentals are several nudge-nudge, wink-wink ribaldries, songs like "Tight Like That" and "Four Five Times," in low-key renditions that may not be as saucy as the way they sang them in the whorehouses and honkytonks, but ya still get the point. Really, the emphasis here is on Noone's superlative playing... it's really quite a delight.

Jimmie Noone "The Chronological Jimmie Noone: 1923-1928" (Classics, 1990)

Jimmie Noone "The Chronological Jimmie Noone: 1928-1929" (Classics, 1992)

Jimmie Noone "The Chronological Jimmie Noone: 1929-1930" (Classics, 1992)

Jimmie Noone "The Chronological Jimmie Noone: 1930-1934" (Classics, 1992)

Jimmie Noone "The Chronological Jimmie Noone: 1934-1940" (Classics, 1992)

Jimmie Noone "An Introduction To Jimmie Noone -- His Best Recordings: 1923-1940" (Best Of Jazz, 1996)

Jimmie Noone "The Apex Of New Orleans" (ASV-Living Era, 1997)

Jimmie Noone "The Complete Recordings" (Definitive, 2004)
A 4-CD set...

Ivor Novello "Shine Through My Dreams -- Original Recordings: 1917-1950" (Naxos, 2002)
Welsh film actor/composer/pianist Ivor Novello is a favorite of many nostalgia buffs, although I have to confess my shortcomings in that department: the prissy, trilling, songbirdish style of these pop-operetta art songs just doesn't do much for me. There's a surplus of vocal technique (mainly by other artists, not Novello himself) and a shortage of direct emotional presentation... For the life of me, I couldn't tell you what a single song lyric was about. But just because it's not on my wavelength doesn't mean the rest of you won't like it. I'm sure this is a good representation of Novello's work, if you wanted to check him out.

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