|JazzReview.com: In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee is a collection of never-before heard tracks of Allen Eager from the late 1940’s. Eager, though not an innovator, was on the forefront of the bop revolution on the streets of New York. The liner notes and the track listings read like a Who’s Who of the giants of bop from the era. It is a pleasure to hear these previously unreleased tracks that not only feature Eager, but also Buddy Rich, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell, among others.
Eager’s career started (as his name might suggest) when he was young, merely a teenager. He was able to substitute in many of the big bands while the usual personnel were off to the Second War. He played with such luminaries as Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman before getting into the New York scene and leading his own quartet at the age of eighteen. He was considered one of the leading protégés of Lester Young, and formed strong musical relationships as well as personal ones during the liveliest jazz period ever. His playing is strong, rhythmically vibrant, technical (though not quite Charlie Parker or Sonny Stitt), and most importantly, original.
Most impressive in this release of “previously unreleased material” are the liner notes provided by Ira Gitler. He provides not only a reprinting of his notes from Eager’s comeback album in 1982, but also many pages of fresh notes, recounting his friendship with Eager, and Eager’s foray into the bop scene in the late 1930’s and later his vanishing from it for over twenty years to pursue other ventures. Gitler’s writing, as always, is full of personal anecdotes and vibrant descriptions of the 52nd street scene in the 40’s.
The liner notes also include detailed descriptions of the music being heard, as well as descriptions of the three sessions and how the recordings came into being (often not in the usual manner). It further provides short biographies of some of the lesser known musicians on the dates. All in all, the liner notes (although not a quick read) are extremely informative, interesting, and entertaining.
The music on the album is truly remarkable. It contains music from three sessions outside the recording studio that we wouldn’t typically get to hear. The first is from the Hi-Hat in Boston, Mass. The second is from a live broadcast for a television studio, and the last from a private apartment in Manhattan. The unrehearsed feel of all the sessions gives us the sense of having a glimpse into the world of the 1940’s bebop musician’s world.
The music itself is good and gratifies a yearning for new music from that prolific era. Giving such unique settings, personnel, and even famous names on not-so-often heard instruments (Charlie Parker plays tenor) is a gift for the jazz listener.
This collection of Allen Eager’s music from the late 40’s and early 50’s is a reward to any fan of bebop music in its purest form. It provides not only the music, but also historical perspective to one of the most prolific and creative periods in American music.