Victor 25523 – Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra – 1937

The nineteenth of November marks the anniversary of the birth of the legendary “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing”—Tommy Dorsey.  I could pay tribute to him with some rare and obscure hot jazz disc from his early days, but frankly, I’d rather commemorate the occasion with my favorite of his records, one of his biggest swing hits.

A young Tommy Dorsey in the 1920s.

The younger of the famed Dorsey Brothers, Thomas Francis Dorsey, Jr. was born on November 19, 1905 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, one of four Dorsey children, of whom three survived into adulthood.  Tommy initially took up the trumpet as a boy in his father’s band, and later switched to trombone.  He played both instruments proficiently throughout his career.  Tommy got his first professional gig in 1921, when his brother Jimmy recommended him to replace trombonist Russ Morgan in Billy Lustig’s Scranton Sirens Orchestra, and both brothers played in that band until Jean Goldkette poached them for his own orchestra in 1923.  Tommy made his first recordings with Goldkette in 1924, but remained in the band’s roster—which also famously included the likes of Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, and Eddie Lang—only until 1925, when he left to join the California Ramblers. and began working prolifically as a studio musician.  Before departing, Tommy, along with other members of Goldkette’s orchestra, sat in at the first session of Bix Beiderbecke’s Rhythm Jugglers in 1925.  Both Dorsey brothers joined “King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman’s orchestra in 1927.  He made his first record under his own name in 1928: a pair of trumpet solos on the Okeh label.  The Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra also made their first records for Okeh in 1928, originally strictly as a recording band made up of studio men, an arrangement which continued into the 1930s.  Not long after forming a “real” band around 1934 with a recording contract for Decca, Tommy—always the temperamental one—stormed off the stage in 1935, creating a rift between the brothers.  Thereafter, the brothers split up; Jimmy continued to lead the former Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra for Decca, while Tommy bought out Joe Haymes’ orchestra and began recording for Victor.  Both Dorseys enjoyed great success leading their own orchestras, and the two became leading names as the swing era began.

With “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” as his theme song, Dorsey’s orchestra was known for playing music on sweet side, but he also led a smaller jazz group: the Clambake Seven.  Among the many hits to Tommy Dorsey’s name were “Song of India” and “Marie” in 1937, “I’ll Never Smile Again” in 1940, and “Opus No. 1” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” in 1944, the latter two featuring arrangements by Sy Oliver.  In 1939, Dorsey replaced vocalist Jack Leonard with a young man from Hoboken, who had previously made his first records with the orchestra of Harry James: Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra remained in his band until 1942, when, as things tended to go with Tommy Dorsey, they parted ways acrimoniously.  In 1947, both Dorsey brothers appeared in the biographical picture The Fabulous Dorseys, and in 1953, they finally reunited when Jimmy disbanded his own band was invited to join Tommy’s.  Together once again, they began appearing on television.  Tommy Dorsey died after choking in his sleep on November 26, 1956.  Jimmy took over and led his band until his own death the following year.  Like that of fellow bandleader Glenn Miller, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra continued to operate and perform into the modern day.

Victor 25523 was recorded at RCA Victor’s Studio 2 in New York City on January 29, 1937 in a session supervised by Leonard Joy.  The orchestra is made up of Bunny Berigan, Jimmy Welch, Joe Bauer, and Bob Cusumano on trumpets, Tommy Dorsey, Les Jenkins, and E. W. “Red” Bone on trombones, Joe Dixon on clarinet and alto sax, Fred Stulce and Clyde Roundson alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Dick Jones on piano, Carmen Mastren on guitar, Gene Traxler on string bass, and Dave Tough on drums.  It originally appeared with Victor’s “scroll” label, which was discontinued in 1937, this pressing dates to soon after, probably around 1938.  It was Tommy Dorsey’s first big hit with his own orchestra, after his split with brother Jimmy.

On the “A” side, designated a “Swing Classic”, the boys swing the old “Song of India”, originally from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1896 opera Sadko, with an enticing arrangement by Dorsey.

Song of India, recorded January 29, 1937 by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra.

On “B”, they play a song that’s truly near the top of my very long list of favorites, Irving Berlin’s “Marie”, with a lead vocal by Jack Leonard, backed by a chorus made up of members of the band—and a solid trumpet solo provided by Berigan.  I tell you, all the really best swing records have Bunny Berigan in the lineup.

Marie, recorded January 29, 1937 by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra.

Melotone M 12828 – Joe Venuti and his Orchestra – 1933

Happy Easter (1942) from Old Time Blues to you!

A Happy Easter (1942) from Old Time Blues to you!

I spent some time carefully deliberating over an appropriate record for this Easter.  I considered a variety of rural sacred material, but nothing seemed to fit properly, before it hit me: what song could be more fitting for the occasion than Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade”!  I don’t know how I could have initially made such an oversight.

While these sides bear the name of Joe Venuti (though it was largely just an ARC studio band that included Venuti), they’re not particularly hot music.  In fact, they’re rather run-of-the-mill Depression-era pop tunes, not bad by any means, quite good actually, but not hot jazz.  However, these sides are remarkable for at least one reason: they both feature a vocal refrain by one Dolores DeFina, using the name Dolores Reade at the behest of her agent.  Less than a year after this record was made, Dolores Reade married an emergent vaudevillian by the name of Bob Hope.  Though she had to put up with Bob’s womanizing habit, the two remained married until Hope’s death in 2003.  Dolores passed in 2011 at the age of 102.

Melotone M 12828 was recorded October 26, 1933 in New York City by Joe Venuti and his Orchestra, featuring a vocal chorus on both sides by Dolores Reade.  Both songs originate from Irving Berlin’s 1933 revue, As Thousands Cheer.  While the full personnel is not known, the band includes, besides Venuti on violin, Max Farley on clarinet and alto sax and Pat Davis or Bud Freeman on tenor sax.

In celebration of the holiday today, here’s a charming rendition of “Easter Parade”.

Easter Parade

Easter Parade, recorded October 26, 1933 by Joe Venuti and his Orchestra.

On the other side is another song from As Thousands Cheer, though it’s not as well remembered as “Easter Parade”, “Heat Wave”.

Heat Wave

Heat Wave, recorded October 26, 1933 by Joe Venuti and his Orchestra.

Updated on June 24, 2016.

Victor 25494 – Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra – 1930

This record, one I’ve been on the lookout for for quite a while, arrived just in time for Hoagy Carmichael’s 116th birthday, and I know of no better occasion to feature it here than that.

Howard Hoagland Carmichael was born November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana.  One of the most influential composers of the twentieth century, he is remembered for many enduring compositions including “Washboard Blues”, “Riverboat Shuffle”, “Star Dust”, “Rockin’ Chair”, “Georgia (On My Mind)”, “Lazy River”, and so many more.  Carmichael graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1926, but after playing with a student band, he soon turned to music instead. Hoagy made his first recordings for the Indiana-based Gennett Records with Curtis Hitch’s Happy Harmonists in 1925.  Over his long career, Carmichael became one of America’s foremost songwriters, and worked with such personalities as Paul Whiteman and Louis Armstrong, to name a few.  Hoagy Carmichel died in 1981 at the age of 82.

Victor 25494 is a 1936 master pressed reissue made up of sides originally from two different discs, recorded on May 21, 1930 and September 15, 1930 in New York.  Both sides feature different, but equally star studded personnel in the band.  Hoagy does the vocal on both sides, and both feature the cornet of Bix Beiderbecke, in two of his last recording sessions.

“Rockin’ Chair” was originally issued on Victor V-38139 and features the musical talent of Bix on cornet, plus Bubber Miley on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Arnold Brilhart on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Hoagy on organ, Harry Goodman on tuba, and Gene Krupa on drums.

Rockin' Chair, recorded

Rockin’ Chair, recorded May 21, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

On the original recording of Carmichael’s famous “Georgia (On My Mind)”, originally issued on Victor 23013, the musicians present are Bix on cornet once again, with Ray Lodwig on trumpet, Jack Teagarden and Boyce Cullen on trombone, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Min Leibrook on bass saxophone (though I honestly don’t hear a bass sax here), and Chauncey Morehouse on drums.  This was Bix’s final recording session.

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded September 15, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

Columbia C-40 – From Austin High Comes Jazz – 1940

"From Austin High Comes Jazz" by Bud Freeman and his Famous Chicagoans. Cover art by Alex Steinweiss.

“From Austin High Comes Jazz” by Bud Freeman and his Famous Chicagoans. Cover art by Alex Steinweiss.

In the early 1920s, a group of five students from Chicago’s Austin High School got together to form a jazz band.  The original group consisted of Jimmy and Dick McPartland on cornet and banjo, respectively, Frank Teschemacher on alto saxophone and violin, Jim Lanigan on piano, and Bud Freeman, the greenhorn of the bunch, on C-melody saxophone.  Drummer Dave Tough joined in later on, and guitarist Eddie Condon recorded with the band as “McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans” in 1927. This group became quite popular, and, among other bands, helped to bring jazz music to the toddling town of Chicago.  Eventually, the musicians went their separate ways, off to greater success in different orchestras and bands.  Frank Teschemacher died tragically in a car accident in 1932, days away from his 26th birthday.

Nearly two decades later, Eddie Condon brought together a different group of leading jazzmen, many of whom had no real connection to Chicago, under Bud Freeman’s name to record a session at Columbia Records.  The group, which performed live under the name “Summa Cum Laude Orchestra” , included the likes of Condon and Freeman, as well as jazz greats Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, and Dave Tough of the original Austin High Gang.  This 1940 session resulted in the release of an album titled From Austin High Comes Jazz, annotated by record producer John Hammond, proclaimed in the liner notes as “America’s Greatest Jazz Authority”.  The annotation notes Benny Goodman as a member of the Austin High Gang, but he was not connected to my knowledge, though he did play with some of the musicians later on.

All eight sides of Columbia C-40 were recorded July 23, 1940 and include the fine musicianship of Max Kaminsky on trumpet, Jack Teagarden on trombone, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Dave Bowman on piano, Eddie Condon on guitar, Mort Stuhlmaker on string bass, and Dave Tough on drums.

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