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The Metronome All-Stars

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Metronome Magazine had an annual poll during 1939-1961 that picked who their readers considered the top jazz instrumentalists on each instrument for that year. Unlike with other magazine polls, Metronome actually recorded the all-stars (trying for the actual winners, but usually also including a few runners-up) on a fairly regular basis with sessions gathering the victors of the 1939-1942, 1945-1950, 1953, and 1956 contests. In most cases, the group recorded two songs and there were short solos (generally one chorus) from practically all of the participants. The early groups were swing-oriented, while the later ones were filled with top bop players, but sometimes the combination of players was unusual. Highlights included Benny Goodman playing with many of his alumni in 1940 (including Harry James, Jess Stacy, and Gene Krupa); Nat "King" Cole and June Christy sharing the vocal mike on "Nat Meets June" (1946); Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, and Miles Davis trading off in 1949; and Billy Eckstine scatting quite effectively in 1953. A jam on "Billie's Bounce" in 1956 wrapped up the valuable series, which was recorded for labels now owned by Columbia, RCA, and Capitol. ~ Scott Yanow

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