When yours truly began writing this review, the weather was a blustery twenty degrees. Today, however, it’s nearly eighty degrees. That’s the nature of life in Texas. It might just be time for yours truly to review a fantastic and relevant new compilation from Bear Family Records before it’s too late. Autumn Leaves: 29 Gems For The Golden Season of Indian Summer is part of the label’s excellent new seasonal compilation series, and leave it to the masters of cool, exotic, and long-forgotten sounds to come up with a hip and swinging record that superbly captures the essence of the season.
Considering the massive amount of material found on Autumn Leaves, you’re spoiled for choice, as it’s a veritable smorgasbord of styles. You have several varieties of jazz, whether it’s big bands like Harry James (“Autumn Serenade”) and Les Brown (“Apple Valley”) or vocalists such as Dinah Washington (“September In The Rain”) and Etta James (“Stormy Weather”). Harmony groups such as The Coasters (“Autumn Leaves,” “Melancholy Rhapsody”), The Tempos (“See You In September”) are quite delightful in their polyphonic tones. Teen Pop vocalists like Tab Hunter (“Waiting For Fall”) and Bobby Vinton (“Rain, Rain Go Away”) capture the youthful innocence of the season. Easy Listening is nicely represented via Ferrante & Teicher’s “In The Rain,” Bobby Darin and His Orchestra’s “Theme From ‘Come September’,” and Chet Atkins’ “Windy And Warm.”
Yet Autumn Leaves contains a few curveballs. Flatt & Scruggs’ frenetic “Shuckin’ The Corn” sounds like a pretty blatant variation on their “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” while the appearance of virtually unknown Joe Daniels & His Hot Shots might make you think they were a hot combo from St. Louis, when in fact they were a British combo who recorded their track “Whirlwind” during the height of the blitz in 1941! The album also contains some funky and funny numbers such as Memphis Minnie’s “What’s The Matter With The Mill” and Lionel Hampton’s “Turkey Hop (Pt. 2).” Rockabilly makes an appearance with Eddie Cochran’s “Cotton Picker,” and the amazingly indescribable Red Ingle’s “Moe Zart’s Turkey Trot” is pure November barn dance fun.
All in all, Autumn Leaves: 29 Gems For The Golden Season of Indian Summer does a fine job of capturing the essence of late fall; occasionally hot and steamy, occasionally cool and mellow. Weatherman says that by this time tomorrow we’ll have highs in the fifties. Autumn Leaves is much like the unpredictable Texas weather: if you don’t like the music, all you need to do is wait two minutes for the seasons to change.
Purchase Autumn Leaves: 29 Gems For The Golden Season of Indian Summer: Amazon / Bear Family Records