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The Big Eighteen
The Big Eighteen all star big band
The Big 18
Jazz all-stars of Swing era owned the cover tunes they recorded in hi-fi
One of the greatest assemblages of Big Band era all-stars to be recorded together in stereo
Big Eighteen
RCA Victor Studio Big Band
5 Studio Sessions, 2 LPs
Live Echoes Of The Swinging Bands
More Live Echoes Of The Swinging Bands
Jazz Radio Audio
The live feed of our Tuesday jazz music radio show streaming online at 4:00 PM Pacific with a focus on the history of jazz music and jazz music that swings from the 1930s to today.

Our Jazz Radio Show Info Page
The sordid history of our jazz music radio show, est. 1985. Lends credence to the theory that FCC radio deregulation survival may be linked to narcissistically twisted disorders.

History Of Jazz Part 1
Early hot jazz bands, the hotel dance bands and the history of jazz music leading up to the Big Band era.

History Of Jazz Part II
The role of economics, early recording technology, and radio relative to jazz history and the Big Band era.

The Recording Ban Of 1942
Scans of a 1942 Down Beat magazine article detailing a dramatic event in jazz history during the Big Band era; the James Petrillo / AFM recording ban.

Webb Cuts Basie At The Savoy
Another of the many jazz magazine articles on the site detailing big events in jazz history. This piece recounts the Count Basie vs. Chick Webb big band music Battle Of Swing held at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in January of 1938.

The Big 18 was a studio only big band assembled by RCA Victor Musical Director Fred Reynolds in 1958. Reynold's idea was to use some of the great songs and arrangements of the big band era while showcasing some of the star sidemen of the great bands by allowing ample time for extended solos. There were two releases by The Big 18. They were Live Echoes Of The Swinging Bands and More Live Echoes Of The Swinging Bands.

Hi-fi stereo was of course a post Swing era invention. Extended recorded solos were not a luxury arrangers and band-leaders during the Big Band era were afforded as 78RPM records allowed only about three minutes per side.

Under the leadership of George T. Simon the Jazztone record label in 1957 had already begun the process of grouping former Big Band era soloists in an all-star setting and recording them in hi-fi. While excellent, records like "Cootie And Rex In The Big Challenge" used primarily new material and a smaller group of ten musicians. In the same year, on Capitol, Glen Gray was recreating hits of the big band era in hi-fi with larger bands. The Gray / Capitol recordings are stiff by comparison and not nearly as exciting as the nineteen issued takes done by The Big Eighteen in the summer of 1958.

The solos, the expert arrangements written by Charles Shirley, and the incredible personnel line-up sets the RCA Big Eighteen recordings apart from most other post WWII big band alumni or all-star big band groupings. A veritable who's who of jazz and swing participated in the five recording sessions done between June 10th and July 15th, 1958. Not since the great Metronome All-Star dates during the Swing era was there a group of sidemen of this caliber assembled for recording purposes. 

On the June 10th date Billy Butterfield (Shaw, Goodman); Buck Clayton (Basie); Charlie Shavers (Tommy Dorsey, John Kirby); and Rex Stewart (Ellington); are all playing trumpet. On bones we hear Lawrence Brown (Ellington); Vic Dickenson (Basie); Lou McGarity (Goodman); and Dickie Wells (Basie). Walt Levinsky (Tommy Dorsey) is on clarinet and alto; Hymie Schertzer (Goodman, Tommy Dorsey) plays alto; Sam Donahue (bandleader) and Boomie Richman (Teddy Powell, George Paxton) work tenor. Ernie Caceres (Glenn Miller) plays baritone sax.

The rhythm section for the first four sessions consists of Johnny Guarnieri (Shaw, Goodman) piano; Barry Galbraith (Thornhill, McIntyre) guitar; Milt Hinton (Cab Calloway) bass; and Jimmy Crawford (Jimmie Lunceford) on drums. Peanuts Hucko (Bradley, Spivak, Miller) was used on clarinet subbing for Levinsky on June 17th and Yank Lawson (Bob Crosby) subbed for Butterfield on trumpet for the July 8th and 15th dates. Levinsky was back in on clarrey for Hucko on July 8th and 15th. Changes to the rhythm section for 7-15 included Don Lamond (Woody Herman) on drums and Russ Saunders (Thornhill) on string bass.

At RCA around 15 sessions of what could be considered big band recordings were cut for the entire year 1958. These sessions were lead by artists like Sid Ramin, George Siravo, Henri Renee, Billy Butterfield, Toni Perkins, Vaughan Monroe, Lena Horne, The Sauter-Finnegan Orchestra and Ray McKinley fronting the New Glenn Miller Orchestra. The LPs that resulted sounded at large like syrupy pre-arranged affairs mostly covering old big band standards with arrangements that had little to no oomph behind them.

Only Cootie Williams, Henry Mancini, Shorty Rogers and Red Norvo had swinging outings in big band settings for RCA in 1958. Add recordings by Aaron Bell, John Lewis, Bobby Troupe (fronting a group of all stars), and Art Blakey live at Club St. Germaine in Paris and you have the total recorded output of good jazz on RCA for the entire year! (note:This does not include Perez Prado)

Compare this to the multitude of recordings in the Rock And Roll genre and the schmaltzy vocals that RCA produced in 1958 and it is amazing that this group was recorded on the label at all.

It is really a pity the CDs of this session are still out of print. The releases had numerous buyers waiting on the Amazon.com "buy it used" lists as of the original writing of this article in 2003. They are highly sought after by modern day Lindy Hop swing dancers thanks to instructors like Frankie Manning who have done a tremendous service in educating a new generation of swing fans.

Below are the recording dates of the songs from the two LP's by the Big 18. If you like big band jazz and swing music; these two releases are well worth tracking down if you can find them.

Ray Charles Biography
Known as "The Genius" Ray Charles recorded a wide variety of music but got his start playing big band music and jazz. He passed away 6-10-04.

Barney Kessel Biography
The jazz guitar great died May 6th, 2004 and left behind a vast body of recorded jazz work.

Benny Carter Biography
Benny Carter was one of the greatest arrangers and jazz musicians the genre has ever known. This extensive biography spans the entire lengthy career of the jazz legend.

Billy May Biography
The trumpeter, bandleader, composer and arranger died Jan. 22, 2004. May wrote many Swing Era classics for Glenn Miller and Charlie Barnet and later for Sinatra and Nat Cole.

Count Basie Biography
Our biography of Count Basie traces the career of "the kid from Red Bank" through Kansas City and into the later stages of his life as a bandleader.

Live Echoes Of The Swinging Bands

Easy Does It
Five O' Clock Drag

Tuxedo Junction
Blues On Parade

March Of The Toys

I'm Prayin' Humble
Hors d'oeuvre

Liza (All The Clouds Will Roll Away)
The Campbells Are Swinging

More Live Echoes Of The Swinging Bands

Swingtime In The Rockies

Feet Draggin' Blues
Summit Ridge Drive

Okay For Baby
Parade Of The Milk Bottle Caps

Celery Stalks At Midnight

Organ Grinder's Swing
Ton O' Rock Bump
Quaker City Jazz

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