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1948-1949

Earl Bostic

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Album Review

Having pared his band down to six pieces, one of the most agile alto saxophonists in the world sailed through 1948 on a wave of hot recordings that were designed to entertain. You know how beboppers would quote from dozens of melodies during the course of one three-minute tune? Earl Bostic made a funny routine out of this tendency on his 1948 Gotham recording "Disc Jockey's Nightmare." Touching upon one familiar lick after another, he runs rampant as the band fires off hasty quotes from commonly known songs. "Tiger Rag," dating back to the early '20s, gets the dizzying Bostic treatment at a modest 60 mph, and trumpeter Roger Jones, while singing "Bar Fly Baby," proves that "beer" rhymes with "beer." None of these records were meant to be profound, but simply entertaining. "Artistry By Bostic" is a wild ride, as are most of Earl's performances. He was a dazzler and he knew it. He also correctly estimated the preferences of the record-buying public. Each selection proved to be remarkably accessible to the average listener. "Temptation," in fact, proved irresistible, climbing to number ten on the Billboard R&B chart. Some of these tracks resound with dynamic reverb — the question remains, was this effect part of the original recording, or was it added later in one of many reissues? The question is relevant — there's so much reverb on "Apollo Theater Jump" that "Shep" Shepherd's drum solo seems to collide with itself in the audio equivalent of a hall of mirrors. In 1947, King Records began leasing Bostic's recordings from Gotham. Eventually, King purchased his entire contract and in January 1949 he found himself in Cincinnati leading a slightly modified version of his sextet, now fortified with Tiny Bradshaw's tenor sax man Lowell "Count" Hastings and a young pianist by the name of Jaki Byard. Ten years later, Byard would be a cardinal member of the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop. Ironically, the first number chosen to inaugurate Bostic's rocket-to-stardom rise to fame with the King record company was "Watch Where You Walk, Boy," a ridiculous cornball skit involving a staged tussle between an unidentified female and singing trumpeter Roger Jones. The public ate up this kind of entertainment, mingled as it was with Bostic's patented brand of lightning-quick alto saxophone, pretty and conspicuous as a Roman candle.

Biography

Born: 25 April 1913 in Tulsa, OK

Genre: Jazz

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

Alto saxophonist Earl Bostic was a technical master of his instrument, yet remained somewhat underappreciated by jazz fans due to the string of simple, popular R&B/jump blues hits he recorded during his heyday in the '50s. Born Eugene Earl Bostic in Tulsa, OK, on April 25, 1913, Bostic played around the Midwest during the early '30s, studied at Xavier University, and toured with several bands before moving to New York in 1938. There he played for Don Redman, Edgar Hayes, and Lionel Hampton, making...
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