In 1981 Tenor Sax legend Illinois Jacquet pursued his career-long dream of assembling a truly great big jazz band in the tradition of his mentors, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton, bands with whom he recorded and toured in his youth. He would apply all the wisdom and experience he gleaned as their sideman, as well as from his years of leadership over his many small groups, and would include songs he made famous with his "little big band" of the 1940s. The Illinois Jacquet Big Band was filled with luminaries and young stars, but unfortunately would only record one studio album entitled "Jacquet's Got It" on Atlantic Records, in 1987.
Here we have a very early snapshot of what that band was like in a super rare and intimate rehearsal setting in the basement of Jacquet's own home in St. Albans, Queens NY, a space he lovingly named "Count Basement Studio". These legendary musicians would rehearse a full 5 day week, often 7-8 hrs per day to prepare for a week-long engagement, such as this one, which was preparing for a week at the Village Vanguard in New York City. (refer to SR-279, the release previous to this one). Some of the performances on this recording are of course, messy, raw and blemished, but they also reveal the pathos with which The Master dedicated himself to perfecting his craft. As the second in our Jacquet Files series, we are proud to unveil the warm sounds of this hard swinging band in all its glory! One thing to note on these recordings is the difference between the publicly performing Jacquet, and the private-among-his-peers versions. In public Illinois was expected to play his well-known solos, very much in the tradition of his most famous solo of all, as on Lionel Hampton's "Flying Home." However, in this relaxed setting at home he was actually heard to be improvising more spontaneously, and that is the real value of this recording: the fact that Jacquet was still evolving and perfecting his skills as a soloist. Also notable are his performances on Alto Saxophone on the first take of Lester Young's Tickle Toe (track 1) and track 12, Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood". His alto playing shows an entirely different personality than his tenor, which is also rare to hear and of definitive value. These wonderful arrangements are mostly by the pen of Eddie Barefield, Wild Bill Davis, and Jimmy Mundy. Featured here within the band are veterans such as E.V. Perry, Irvin Stokes, Johnny Grimes, Kiane Zawadi, Richard Wyands, Eddie Barefield, Rudy Rutherford, Bill Easley, and Hugh Brodie; as well as young lions such as Robert Trowers and Joey Cavaseno.