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Berry Story

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Album Review

This import covers Chu Berry's initial foray into solo territory. Cut between 1936-1939, the 24 cuts find the tenor saxophone luminary in the stellar company of trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Hot Lips Page, the irrepressible trombonist Keg Johnson, pianist Jess Stacey, and drummer Cozy Cole. Lionel Hampton and Benny Goodman also contribute to the party, but in cameo roles. Of particular note are the sides Berry recorded with Eldridge from 1938: it's a set that ranges from rambunctious swingers ("Forty Six, West Fifty Two") to glowing ballads ("Stardust"), all the while showing off Berry's full tone and agile phrasing on a variety of tempi. The mix continues apace with blues, proto-bop workouts, and some nice vocals featuring Page in a gruff and whiskey-soaked mood. Along with Commodore's Memorial disc, this collection makes for a welcome addition to the sparse Chu Berry catalog.


Born: 13 September 1910 in Wheeling, WV

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s

Chu Berry was considered one of the top tenor saxophonists of the 1930s, just below Coleman Hawkins (his main influence), Lester Young, and Ben Webster. Particularly strong on up-tempo numbers (although his ballad statements could be overly sentimental), Berry might have become an influential force if he had not died prematurely. After playing alto in college, he switched to tenor in 1929 when he joined Sammy Stewart's band. In 1930, he moved to New York, playing with Benny Carter's band and Charlie...
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