The Complete Joe Newman RCA-Victor Recordings (1955-1956)

I love this double-CD and it is probably one of the most frequently-played reissues in my home. It’s also the one that made me search out many more double-CDs from this wonderful early 90s reissue series, “Jazz Tribune” (later sold under the title “Indispensable”) by RCA/BMG France.Joe Newman (1922-1992) was best-known for his lengthy stay with Count Basie’s Orchestra. Newman started fronting pick-up groups from March 1954 onwards, but these sessions here start with the first ones for the giant RCA-Victor, starting in early 1955. Newman built an octet around fellow Basie members Wilkins, Green and Wilson by adding representatives of the swinging Kansas City style. The recording was done with one single microphone and soloists were brought to the forefront by simply making them stand up. The group’s sound was recorded exceptionally well and this reissue has more than decent sound, although I could imagine that a label like “Mosaic Records” could remaster this material to really make it shine. Still, this early 90s BMG reissue is a fairly flat transfer and is the better for it (you can really turn this one up without your ears starting to bleed), especially since you can still find this one at relatively cheap prices ranging from about $10 to $20 via second-hand sites or Amazon marketplace dealers.

Most of the other “Jazz Tribune” releases were mere reissues of earlier double-LP sets, but this one was newly compiled. It collects the four RCA LPs recorded by Newman, the two octet sessions, the tribute to Louis Armstrong in a big band setting and the wonderful small group session (a two-guitar septet) with flutist Frank Wess.

The whole set has a wonderful Basie touch to it and seriously swings. The octet sessions are essentially a mini-history of jazz and American popular music and include numbers made famous by, for example, Fred Astaire (Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails)), Frankie Laine (We’ll Be Together) as well as Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton (Sweethearts on Parade), Earl Hines and Fletcher Henderson (You Can Depend on Me), Benny Goodman and Lester Young (Sometimes I’m Happy) or Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard (Lament for a Lost Love).

Critics have given fellow New Orleans artist Newman the stamp of approval for his more contemporary take on Louis Armstrong’s material that makes up a larger part of the second CD and Newman easily links traditional and modern styles.

“The Midgets” session takes its name from Lester Young calling the more slender members of the Count Basie band “midgets” (on the 1955 Birdland Stars tour, the more meaty members were “the bombers”). The personnel came together in the dressing room of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria where Newman could be found warming up (with a muted trumpet) for each concert of this prolonged Basie residency gig, and after a while he was joined by fellow “midget” Frank Wess on flute and a while later by “bombers” Freddie Green and Eddie Jones. Basie saw the potential and moved the group from the backstage area to center-stage and gave them a central spot on the program: “The Midgets” became an up-tempo blues showpiece set in the repertoire.

If you like swing and especially the Basie sound, this is a must-have reissue which, as far as I know, is still the only complete collection of the material.

Rating: ***** (for the music) **** (for the sound)/*****


Artist(s): Joe Newman
Title: The Complete Joe Newman RCA-Victor Recordings (1955-1956): “The Basie Days” (Jazz Tribune #75)
Release Date: BMG France, 1994

This CD: Jazz Tribune #75, 74321226132

Disk: 01
01. Corner Pocket (02:41)
02. Dream a Little Dream of Me (02:34)
03. Topsy (03:14)
04. Leonice (03:35)
05. Jack’s Wax (02:29)
06. Limehouse Blues (03:23)
07. Captain Spaulding (03:28)
08. Soon (02:41)
09. If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) (03:06)
10. I Could Have Told You (02:55)
11. Lullaby of Birdland (03:08)
12. Pretty Skinny Bunny (02:28)
13. It’s a Thing of the Past (02:47)
14. You Can Depend on Me (03:33)
15. Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails (02:41)
16. Sometimes I’m Happy (03:51)
17. Shameful Roger (02:46)
18. Lament for a Lost Love (03:11)
19. Sweethearts on Parade (02:41)
20. Slats (03:51)
21. Perfidia (02:50)
22. It’s Bad for Me (03:19)
23. Exactly Like You (03:15)
24. We’ll Be Together Again (03:38)
25. The Daughter of Miss Thing (02:35)

Disk: 02
01. Basin Street Blues (03:31)
02. You Can Depend on Me (02:53)
03. Sweethearts on Parade (02:14)
04. Back O’ Town Blues (03:46)
05. Pennies from Heaven (03:06)
06. When It’s Sleepy Time Down South (03:00)
07. Struttin’ With Some Barbecue (02:41)
08. West End Blues (03:58)
09. Chinatown, My Chinatown (02:44)
10. When the Saints Go Marching In (02:39)
11. Dippermouth Blues (02:42)
12. Jeepers Creepers (02:46)
13. No Moon at All (02:46)
14. Valerie (02:55)
15. My Dog Friday (03:28)
16. Scooter (02:54)
17. Late, Late Show (02:58)
18. Indeed the Blues (03:39)
19. The Midgets (06:09)
20. One Lamper (03:04)
21. Living Dangerously (02:50)
22. Really? Healy! (02:52)
23. She Has Red Hair (03:29)

Recording Dates: February 8th, 1955 – July 13th, 1956

Personnel and Recording Dates:

Session A (1-1 to 1-13); “All I Wanna Do Is Swing” – The Joe Newman Octet: Joe Newman (tp); Frank Rehack (tb); Ernie Wilkins (as); Al Cohn (ts); Nat Pierce (p); Freddie Green (g); Milt Hinton (b); Ross “Shadow” Wilson (d). Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, February 8th, 1955.

Session B (1-14 to 1-21); “I’m Still Swinging” – The Joe Newman Octet: Joe Newman (tp); Urbie Green (tb); Gene Quill (as); Al Cohn (ts); Dick Katz (p); Freddie Green (g); Eddie Jones (b); Ross “Shadow” Wilson (d). Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, October 3rd, 1955.

Session C (1-22 to 1-25): Same as for session B. Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, October 4th, 1955.

Session D (2-1 to 2-4): “Salute to Satch – Joe Newman and His Orchestra”: Joe Newman (tp, voc on “You Can Depend on Me”); Conte Candoli, Joe Ferrante, Bernie Glow, Nick Travis (tp); Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green, Tommy Mitchell, Chauncey Welsch (tb); Sam Marowitz, Phil Woods (as); Al Cohn (ts, cl); Eddie Wasserman (ts); Al (Young) Epstein (bs); Hank Jones (p); Barry Galbraith (g); Burgher “Buddy” Jones (b); Gus Johnson (d). Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, March 4th, 1956.

Session E (2-5 to 2-8): Same as for session D. Ernie Royal (t); Fred Ohms, Benny Powell (tb); Nat Pierce (p);; Freddie Green (g); Eddie Jones (b) replace N Travis; U. Green, T. Mitchell; H. Jones; B. Galbraith; B. Jones. Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, March 11th, 1956.

Session F (2-9 to 2-12): Same as for session E. N. Travis (tp); U. Green, T. Mitchell (tb); H. Jones (p) replace E. Royal; F. Ohms, B. Powell, N. Pierce. Joe Newman and the Band (voc on “When the Saints Go Marching In”). Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, March 14th, 1956.

Session G (2-13 to 2-16): “The Midgets” – The Joe Newman Septet: Joe Newman (tp); Frank Wess (fl); Hank Jones (p); Barry Galbraith (el-g); Freddie Green (rhythm g); Eddie JOnes (b); Osie Johnson (d). Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, July 8th, 1956.

Session H (2-17 to 2-19): Same as for session G. Hank Jones (org on “The Late Show”). Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, July 10th, 1956.

Session I (2-17 to 2-19): Same as for session H. Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, July 13th, 1956.

Manny Albam (1-3, 1-4, 1-8, 1-11, 1-13 to 1-17, 2-1, 2-5 to 2-8, 2-11)
Al Cohn (1-5 to 1-7, 1-9, 1-18 to 1-19, 1-22 to 1-23, 2-10)
Ernie Wilkins (1-1, 1-2, 1-10, 1-12, 1-20 to 1-21, 1-24 to 1-25, 2-2 to 2-4, 2-9, 2-12 – 2-23)

Reissue produced by: Daniel Baumgarten.
Liner Notes (French): Pierre LaFargue (July 1994)
Liner Notes (English): (adapted from the French) Don Waterhouse

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

  1. it’s awesome to see some informative posts about jazz here. i love it, but my knowledge is fairly limited, so this kind of post is great for knowing what to explore further. thanks my man.


  2. Sean,

    thanks for the kind words. There are still a few thousand of these kinds of entries coming in the Millennium Project series, so plenty of information to keep you busy for a few decades. 🙂


  3. The 1955 tracks that were originally released on “All I Wanna Do Is Swing” and “I’m Still Swinging” are currently also available on the limited-edition Mosaic Select 3CD-set “Al Cohn, Joe Newman and Freddie Green” (Mosaic MS-2027), which includes those two albums plus Al Cohn’s “The Natural Seven”, Freddie Green’s “Mr Rhythm” and tracks from the various artists albums “Lullaby of Birdland” and “The Jazz Workshop – Four Brass, One Tenor… Al Cohn”. Here’s a link:


  4. Hans,

    did you maybe get a chance to compare sound between the old BMG France reissue I talked about here and the Mosaic material … or maybe you heard something about the mastering elsewhere?


  5. Volkher,

    No, I’ve not been able to compare the two sets and I haven’t read anything about it elsewhere. The Mosaic set was remastered by Sony engineer Mark Wilder, who was also involved in the mastering of Columbia’s Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Charlie Christian and Miles Davis boxed sets. Many people, including members of the Hoffman site, like his work, but I do not: he tends to boost the higher frequencies in a way that makes the sound get a kind of harsh, piercing quality, especially in louder passages. The sound of Armstrong’s trumpet, Holiday’s voice and Davis’ trumpet on those sets is a case in point, it makes me want to run in the opposite direction… I haven’t listened to the Mosaic set yet, so I can’t comment on Wilder’s work on that one.


  6. Ah, than ks for that info. Very interesting and worth storing away in memory. Thanks for that!

    I’m quite happy with the BMG reissues although my stereo doesn’t even come close to being good enough to tell some of these differences if they are a bit more subtle.

    I recently had the chance to hear some material I like soundwise on some electrostatic speakers (is that what they are called in English?) and I think I have to once again realign my opinion. Those speakers revealed a lot more than my stereo ever could and also revealed quite a few deficiencies.

    Here’s to hopin’ my mediocre setup lasts long enough so I don’t have to upgrade … and be disappointed. 😉


  7. I do my listening mainly on my system, which consists of Mark Levinson gear (CD transport, signal processor and an integrated amplifier) and a couple of Quad ESL 988 electrostatic speakers.


  8. Yeah, the Quads.
    Those were the ones (in silver).
    Damn them. 😉


  9. I’m guessing you’re referring to the first Quad ESL, the 1957 model with the metal grid. My ESL 988 is a much later model.


  10. I did mean the new ones … there is one available with a silver “Abschlußleiste” … no idea what that is in English. It’s not silver altogether. It’s actually blue and silver.


  11. Probably the ones in the picture at the bottom of this page:
    Those are the relatively new Quad ESL 2805/2905 models. I prefer the sound of my earlier ESL 988, it’s a bit more “coherent” – at least to my ears 🙂


  12. Nope. 😉
    Unfortunately, in German … second last paragraph: “… neu hinzu gekommen ist eine Version mit blauer Bespannung und silberner Abschlußleiste“.

    I heard those a while ago with a tube amp (no idea what that one was) and was blown away. Very transparent.


  13. Ah yes, that’s the model I have – in black, that is. They’re terrific. I do read German, but I wouldn’t know what “Abschlußleiste” is in English either…


  14. According to several translation sites “Abschlußleiste” would be “closing bar” in English. Sounds weird…


  15. The dictionary says “end plate” or “end strip” which is basically the top and bottom parts on your speakers that are not cloth.


  16. That sounds more like it.

    “From Joe Newman to an end plate” 😉


  17. A website is a dynamic thing. 🙂

    I just checked and right now my Joe Newman reissue is the “end plate” on one shelf (furthest to the right).

    So, we’ve come full circle.


  18. The greatest jazz trumpet player I know really must be Louis Armstrong. His influence on jazz was just amazing and his songs are great.


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