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Cat On A Hot Fiddle

Stuff Smith

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Album Review

Recorded on two dates in 1959, this full-length by Stuff Smith features a pair of rhythm sections. One contains the great Red Mitchell on bass, the other the magnificent Shirley Horn on piano. In 1959, Smith had been on the scene for over two decades. And while he was well-known by the public at large for his novelty persona and his singing — as evidenced by his 1936 smash hit "I'se A-Muggin'," this long-player aptly displays his stunning virtuosity as a jazz violinist, from standard jazz repertoire such as Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me" to "Strike Up the Band." His bowing is dizzying and the band pushed hard to keep up with him. On "Nice Work if You Can Get It," the tempo middles along but Smith swings hard in his tasty way. And Smith's vocal skills are showcased on the classics "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "Somebody Loves Me," offering a well-rounded portrait of a man who many thought was past his prime. Not so. This date smokes and is a welcome addition to the jazz violin canon.

Biography

Born: 14 August 1909 in Portsmouth, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Stuff Smith was one of the big three of pre-bop violinists along with Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli. Many of his fans said that he could outswing all of his competitors, and certainly Stuff was a major force on the bandstand. Smith, who cited Louis Armstrong as his main influence, studied music with his father and played with the family band as a child. His first major job and recordings were with Alphonse Trent's territory band in the 1920s, but it was not until 1936 that he had his breakthrough....
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Cat On A Hot Fiddle, Stuff Smith
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