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Bud Freeman - Meet Me in San Juan

 

Beale St. Blues - 5.09 
Basin Street Blues - 6.12 
School Days - 5.02 
One for the Money - 5.49 
Saturday Night Fish Fry - 5.50 
All by Myself - 3.19 
Meet Me in San Juan - 4.04 
Chicago - 2.02 
Somebody Stole My Gal - 2.44
Last Night When We Were Young - 4.36 
Please - 3.19 
Something to Remember You By - 3.27 
The Girl Friend - 2.23 
It's Only a Paper Moon - 2.22 
You're a Sweetheart - 3.17 
Sweet Sue - 3.20 
Satin Doll - 3.02 
 


Bud Freeman was part of the so-called Austin High School Gang that the music of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Born in 1906 in Chicago, Freeman was initially a C-melody saxophonist, though he switched to playing tenor saxophone in 1925. With Coleman Hawkins’ hard-blowing sound dominating the world of tenor, Freeman opted for a lighter tone, finding his own way with intricate, often challenging solos. He was still finding his way when he made his first records with fellow Chicago natives Red McKenzie and Eddie Condon, though he wound up working often with Condon throughout much of his career. Freeman worked or recorded with Tommy Dorsey, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Bunny Berigan, Jelly Roll Morton, Jack Teagarden and many others between the 1930s and 1950s. Later in his career, he often recorded with pickup groups or as a guest with a working band, though he was a member of the all-star World’s Greatest Jazz Band in its early years. Freeman was also known for his humor and recorded a narrative track for Commodore Records that parodied Noel Coward's "Private Lives." He was still a fairly active player in his later years, and wrote several books about his life as a musician. His memoir Crazeology: The Autobiography of a Jazz Musician was published in 1989, just two years before his death, a few weeks before his 85th birthday. The first several tracks come from a 1962 session with a group led by guitarist and banjo player Elmer Snowden, who had founded The Washingtonians, a forerunner to the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The band includes two swing musicians of Freeman’s era, trumpeter Roy Eldridge and drummer Jo Jones, along with emerging pianist Ray Bryant and his bassist brother Tommy Bryant. The spirited performance of W. C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues” features Eldridge’s exhilarating, a rollicking bluesy solo by Ray Bryant and a swinging effort by the leader on tenor, with Snowden’s gritty electric guitar providing a great foil for the soloists. Snowden takes the melody with the band responding to his call in the introduction, then he solos with the band playing harmony behind him, until turning it over to Ray Bryant, followed by Freeman and Eldridge. “School Days” has a rhythm & blues flavor to it, with Freeman and Eldridge playing a unison line, then the saxophonist offering a playful line behind the trumpeter’s vocal. “One For the Money” also has an R&B feeling, with Eldridge’s humorous vocal. Louis Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” is a third Eldridge vocal feature, with Freeman making a late entrance following Snowden’s solo. The remaining tracks come from a session with veteran bassist Bob Haggart, drummer Don Lamond and a young pianist named Dave Frishberg, who was just starting his career. The standard “By Myself” starts with a “Manteca”-like vamp, fueling an inspired Freeman solo in a breezy setting. The saxophonist’s “Meet Me in San Juan” is a brisk blues, with some tasty playing by the leader and Frishberg. Haggart’s delicious walking bass in a highlight of the breezy setting of “Chicago.” The quartet takes quite a few liberties with “Somebody Stole My Gal,” transforming it from classic jazz fare into a modern swinger. Freeman displays his rhapsodic side in the easygoing treatment of “Last Night When We Were Young,” though his improvising is as adventurous as any track from this session. Frishberg uses a very similar introduction to Ralph Rainger’s “Please” and Jimmy McHugh’s “You’re a Sweetheart,” though they diverge when Freeman states the melody in each song. The saxophonist captures the sense of longing in the lyric to “Please,” even with the brisk setting. In “You’re a Sweetheart” the mood is more upbeat as Freeman’s expressive vibrato glides over the rhythm section. One can hear a member of the rhythm section make a comment in the background to the breezy setting of Rodgers & Hart’s “The Girl Friend,” showcasing both Freeman and Frishberg to good effect. Harold Arlen’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon” is easily one of his most beloved works. Freeman’s brisk setting of this standard transforms it from a sentimental ballad into a swinger. “Sweet Sue” was quite popular in the 1930s among jazz musicians. This version features more swinging Freeman, a snappy Frishberg solo and Haggart’s inventive walking bass. “Satin Doll” has been recorded so many times (just considering the many versions by its composer, Duke Ellington) that it is perpetual danger of wearing out its welcome. But Freeman opts for a faster clip than typical for the song, while his brilliant reworking of the melody in his superb solo helps it to stand out from the pack. These sessions represent some of Bud Freeman’s finest work from the later years of his long career.

 
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