Reference: FSRCD 2220
Bar code: 8427328622202
Billy Usselton (1926-1994), was a modern, controlled, articulate, swinging tenor man, full of fresh ideas and surprises and rhythm and good taste. These recordings are the only ones he did as featured soloist of his own group.
George T. Simon wrote: This is jazz of pure sound and free spirit. The arrangements are bright and imaginative. They make elegant use of counterpoint and of the unusual sound afforded by the addition of bass clarinet to the leading tenor sax and trombone and by the piano, too.
"This artist, proficient on enough reed instruments to fill the trunk of a midsize car, appeared on nearly 100 different recording sessions between 1946 and 1978, including every Coral or Capitol record cut by Les Brown's bands since 1954. Usselton went professional while still in high school, after lightweight bandleader Bubbles Becker heard the young man blowing at a local nightclub jam session. Following his stint with the Becker band, Usselton played with Sonny Dunham for several years, then joined trumpeter Ray Anthony for a pair of two-year stretches from 1948 through 1949 and 1951 through 1952. In between, Usselton brought his tenor, clarinet, and oboe chops to the Tommy Dorsey band to close out the '40s.
In the early '50s, Usselton and the fine trombonist Bill Harris started their own band, based out of Florida. Usselton would eventually record only one album under his own name, quite accurately entitled His First Album and released in 1957 on the jazz-savvy Kapp imprint. In 1954 he joined Brown, with whom he was affiliated for most of the balance of his career, with the Brown band's busy schedule including tours of Europe, Africa, and the Far East. The group's vocalist, Lauri Johnson, became Usselton's bride in 1958, obviously ignoring the potential for dementia in even a part-time oboe player. In his younger years with Anthony, the reed player's features included numbers such as "Idaho." Although the later years with Brown could hardly be considered rich in jazz content, Usselton remained a swinger to the end with a particular fondness for the playing of Stan Getz. If this ever became a problem with Brown, he never indicated it; there are no reports of the bandleader ordering Usselton to "Getz out of here."
Eugene Chadbourne -All Music Guide
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