Slim Gaillard ‘The Extrovert Spirit Of Slim Gaillard 1945-1958’ 2CD (Avid Jazz) 5/5

slim-gaillardHipster extraordinaire who created his very own slang form of language, Slim Gaillard almost escapes definition. He is at once a self-taught linguist, singer, musician, comedian (in tandem with Slam Stewart, part of the Slim-Slam duo, with whom he also recorded music, most notably ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Laughing In Rhythm’), DJ and raconteur with a heavy dose of satire. There simply is no equivalent character in present day society, but he certainly deserves pride of place among the likes of Lord Buckley and Kenneth Rexroth, and is invariably linked to the beat generation However, in truth he predates all of these, being active from the mid-1930s onwards, and is in a league all of his own. In the late 1980s, a brief vinyl re-issue of ‘Opera In Vout’ emerged and was quickly bought up by the cognoscenti, but other than that his name is better known for his 1989 BBC multi-part radio series, ‘The world of Slim Gaillard, and he remained in the UK until his death in February 1991.
Born and raised in Detroit, Gaillard tried his hand at being a boxer, mortician and even during the prohibition era ran a bootleg rum business. From a musical perspective, his interest coincided with the be-bop revolution in jazz and in fact he recorded his early hit, ‘Cement Mixer’, with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, included here. His musical inspiration included the guitarist Charlie Christian and boogie-woogie piano, and this is reflected in he music. While ‘Flat foot floogie’ is, perhaps his signature tune, there are numerous sides here to admire. They included the odd dose of Latin rhythms as on the early 1950s recording, ‘Sabroso’, or the exotic hues of the mambo on, ‘Mishugana Mambo’ and ‘Sukiyaki Cha Cha’. In general, Slim Gaillard was adept at capitalising on the craze for Eastern rhythms on ‘Arabian boogie’, but was still capable of singing straight ballads from the Great American songbook, and this is illustrated by his rendition of the Gershwin brothers, ‘Oh Lady Be Good’, or on ‘I can’t give you anything but love’. That he was taken seriously by jazz musicians is reflected in the number of top session instrumentalists who accompanied him and they included Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, Lucky Thompson and Ben Webster to name but a few. Above all else, there is a great sense of fun that permeates the totality of these recordings with ‘Babalu, ‘Soony-Roony’ and the four-part, ‘Opera In Vout (The groove Juice Symphony)’ typifying the relaxed and witty humour that flowed out of Gaillard. A fine re-issue and one that will provide endless hours of pleasure, not least from the invented language that Slim was able to conjure up from his highly inventive brain.

Tim Stenhouse