Record Report (#17): November 23, 2006

Serge Chaloff: Boston Blow-Up! (1955, Capitol Jazz): A hard swinging baritone saxophonist with a bop edge, Chaloff cut his teeth in Woody Herman's Second Herd, then moved on -- actually, was thrown out, for following Charlie Parker's habits too literally -- to cut a handful of memorable albums before he succumbed to a spinal tumor at age 33. His masterpiece Blue Serge (1956) is a tight, elegant quartet where everything goes right, in part because Sonny Clark, Leroy Vinnegar, and Philly Joe Jones are dependable pros. This earlier one is sloppier but nearly as impressive. The three-horn sextet achieves the balance of raw power and feather-light touch that producer Stan Kenton aimed for but rarely reached. A- [jazz]

Buddy Holly: The Definitive Collection (1956-58, Geffen/Chronicles): Born in Lubbock TX, so far removed from the centers of American culture that he stitched together his own unique synthesis of everything: country, gospel, doo-wop, rockabilly, and pop from Tin Pan Alley to the Brill Building. The Brits who invaded in 1964 loved him, not least because he paved their way by inventing Merseybeat. Dead at age 22, his three years in the studio were so prolific this 26-cut best-of doesn't even get to "Reminiscing" and "Tell Me How" -- and he was so concise that whatever the reason was it wasn't space. His only limit was subject matter, which ranges from hopeful love songs to deliriously happy love songs. A [rock]

Waylon Jennings: Nashville Rebel (1958-95, RCA Nashville/Legacy, 4CD): Lucky to have missed Buddy Holly's plane, not to mention sustaining a recording career four decades without ever producing a first rate album or a classic single -- at least without Willie Nelson leading the way. He wasn't a rebel, let alone outlaw, so much as an outsider. A hardass Texas rocker, too young when rockabilly hit and too established when alt came around, he never fit the Nashville system and made a virtue out of that. At 92 cuts, this is way more than you need. But the first two discs are so consistently selected they lift his ordinariness. And his friends overcome the rough spots on the last two. A- [country]

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Definitive Collection (1957-81, Hip-O/Chronicles): This makes the usual career-spanning single disc compromise, balancing six breathless Sun hits against three times as many chestnuts from a second career crooning and tinkling in Nashville. This does well enough by the latter, although one suspects that there's hotter stuff in the vaults, especially on live tapes. As for Sun, that's been proven by Original Sun Greatest Hits and Rare Tracks (both Rhino). A- [rock, country]

Fats Waller: If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It (1926-43, Bluebird/Legacy, 3CD): Thomas Waller was a dazzling stride pianist, an enduring songwriter, and one of the funniest singers and showmen ever. Anthologists have been tussling over these attributes ever since Fats, a round man with a narrow mustache and an irrepressibly sweeping grin, died just short of his 40th birthday. With Solomonic wisdom, producer Orrin Keepnews has given us one disc of each. One can nitpick further -- the real answer would be to restore the entire catalog, last seen on 15 CDs before RCA's accountants torched the inventory. Meanwhile, here's a good-enough chance to get acquainted with one guy every American music fan should be hep to. A [jazz]

Muddy Waters: The Definitive Collection (1948-76, Geffen/Chronicles): You can argue for Howlin' Wolf, but for most folks McKinley Morganfield was the epitome of Mississippi gone Chicago, hence the voice of postwar blues. With only one cut to show for his Johnny Winter-assisted comeback -- for that check out the self-explanatory Hard Again or the 1976-80 best-of Blues Sky -- this single disc is the basic intro to his classic Chess sides, which never flag over the 3-CD Chess Box. A [blues]