Before the swing era commenced, you could get an earful of the burgeoning genre from a number of bands. One was Fletcher Henderson’s band, one of the earliest to start swinging music. Another one was the Casa Loma Orchestra, who played swing outright as early as 1930. Today, on the
110th 116th birthday of leader Glen Gray, we’ll hear from them.
The Casa Loma Orchestra got its start in 1927 in Detroit as the Orange Blossoms, managed by Jean Goldkette. After an eight month gig at the Casa Loma Hotel in Toronto, they became known as the Casa Loma Orchestra, though they were not actually a house band at the hotel. They first began recording in 1929 for Okeh, with ultra-modern arrangements by band member Gene Gifford. The band incorporated in 1930, with all members as part-owners, and they ran a tight ship. In the early years, they were fronted by Henry Biagini, but Glen Gray assumed the spot later on. Switching to Brunswick, then to Decca, they became one of the leading bands in the United States by the start of swing era, and held that position into the 1940s. After the close of the swing era, the Casa Loma Orchestra continued to play into the early 1960s, mostly remaking swing hits in hi-fi on Capitol Records.
Okeh 41403 was recorded February 11, 1930 in New York City. The Casa Loma Orchestra consists of Hank Biagini directing Joe Hostetter, Fred Martinez, and Bobby Jones on trumpet, Pee Wee Hunt and Billy Rauch on trombone, Glen Gray and Ray Eberle on alto sax, Pat Davis on tenor sax, Mel Jenssen on violin, Joe Hall on piano, Gene Gifford on banjo and guitar, Stanley Dennis on string bass, and Tony Briglia on drums. Both sides were arranged by Gene Gifford.
First up, they play it hot on on “China Girl”.
Next up is an even hotter rendition of Wingy Manone’s “San Sue Strut”.