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Album Review

This intriguing album contains essentially all of tenor saxophonist Johnny Sparrow's solo work, including sides he recorded with his group Johnny Sparrow & His Bows and Arrows between 1949 and 1955 for the Melford, National and Gotham record labels. Although he was essentially a trad jazz artist, Sparrow flirts dangerously close to bop on some of these cuts, and at other times he seems to be working in an instrumental jump blues direction, and he even hints at merging bop and R&B in a fascinating hybrid on the wonderful "Drumming Up the Works." Other highlights include the soothing "Sparrow's Flight" and the odd, discordant but fun "Serenade to Satchmo" (Sparrow played in Louis Armstrong's band for a time before departing to start his own recording career). It doesn't add up to a large legacy, but what's here shows a transitional musician who wasn't afraid to stretch jazz into some new places, and there's an obvious and endearing joy underlying the playing on all of these cuts.


Born: Grenada

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s

Not much is known about Johnny Sparrow's background, apart from the fact that he may have come from the South/Southwest, perhaps Texas, and that he first emerged in the reed section of Jay McShann's Orchestra, succeeding Charlie Parker during early 1944. He joined during the group's engagement at the Club Plantation in Los Angeles and played with them through the spring of that year. Unfortunately, the group didn't get to record during this period, and its work has survived best in the form of armed...
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1949-1955, Johnny Sparrow
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