The big bands are back
in a new and exciting way!
compiled by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA   
    Fans of Artie Shaw and His Gramercy 5 should welcome a new 5-CD release from Jasmine ( UK ), "'Six Star Treats': The Complete Commercially Released Recordings."
    According to Jasmine publicity, "Presented here, spanning a period from 1940 to 1954, are what are thought to be ALL the commercially released titles by the band."  True, the threshold of the subtitle, "The Complete Commercially Released Recordings," is met through the 1940-45 Victor and RCA Victor recordings, the 1949-50 Decca singles, and the 1953-54 Bell, Clef, and Verve releases. 
    The sound is mostly very good.
    As Jasmine's website proclaims, "With bonus tracks that come from The Gramercy 5's appearances on radio programmes including very rare performances on the 'Radio Hall Of Fame' and 'Kraft Music Hall' this is the seminal release unsurpassed by any other."
    The five 1949 Thesaurus Gramercy 5's are here, too.  But they might as well have also included No Name Blues, of undetermined 1940-41 origin; Cross Your Heart, broadcast from the Hollywood Palladium on January 21, 1941; and Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?, aired from the same venue the following night.
    Actually, what would have really made this unique would have been if Jasmine was able to secure release rights from the Library of Congress for a radio broadcast made by Shaw's small group at 11:30pm on October 16, 1953 from The Embers in New York City, and recently restored (call no. NBC Radio Collection RGA 2058 A2) from what was reportedly a broken acetate.
    I must state some minor quibbles.  First, I personally don't care for the title (maybe it was supposed to be like the old Victor 78 set, "Four Star Favorites," or is a take-off on one of the group's introductions from the 1945 "Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands" shows).  Surely, using one of the tune names as the title for this set would have been more distinctive, such as I've Got a Crush On You or Hop, Skip and Jump or even Don't Take Your Love From Me (in what is a supremely beautiful rendition).  At least they didn't call it Sunny Side Up and make a cover with six eggs frying in a pan - ha-ha! 
    Second, the cover image was appropriated from the 1959 RCA Camden LP, "Artie Shaw Swings Show Tunes," but that should have been saved for -- what else? -- a compilation of show tunes played by the Shaw band, one of their specialties.  For this Gramercy 5 release, it would have been more appropriate to use, for example, the light-hearted cover from the 1956 RCA Victor LP, "Artie Shaw and His Gramercy 5" (the one with black derbies placed atop mannequin heads).  In fact, the photos used in the booklet (other than being Shaw) weren't the most appropriate which could have been chosen, and the liner notes didn't need to trace Shaw's entire career, just that of his Gramercy 5s.
Big Band Library rating: VERY GOOD

   Among Sy Oliver's many recordings for Decca in 1950 were quite a few tunes which he originally arranged for Jimmie Lunceford's band.  Eight of them were gathered for a 10" Decca LP, "For Dancers Only" (DL 5296); in 1957, five additional songs were recorded to expand the disc to 12" (DL 8616) and give it a new title, "The Original Arrangements of Jimmie Lunceford in Hi-Fi."
    Interestingly, with this latter album Decca aimed to give direct competition to Capitol Records, where producer David Cavanaugh suggested that Billy May, a fan of the old Lunceford two-beat, record a tribute, "Jimmie Lunceford in Hi-Fi," to mark 10 years since Lunceford's death.  The Capitol dates were held on June 15 (which happened to be a Saturday), 16 (a Sunday), and 18, 1957; Decca got Oliver in the studio on August 16, 1957. 
    Not only did Capitol boast that their project was done with the approval of the Lunceford estate, but -- apart from a "full-dimensional" stereo which, to my ears, was not yet fully perfected -- May's boasted the participation of Lunceford alumni Trummy Young, Willie Smith, Joe Thomas, and Dan Grissom. 
    However, there was nothing at all wrong with the Sy Oliver performances - his band was great, too, including (with variation between the 1950 and '57 personnel) former Lunceford men Paul Webster, Eddie Wilcox, and Jimmy Crawford, not to mention his own catchy and inimitable vocalizing.  Decca's engineers captured a good sound, still evident on this Lone Hill Jazz reissue.  I could listen to those records over and over! 
    Lone Hill Jazz has also done an attractive job replicating the actual cover and including the original liner notes.
    Were the May Capitol sides not already on CD, this might have been a musically-valid pairing.  Due to space limitations, three of the fifteen songs from May's record were left off.  But since all fifteen were easily available [ see the June 2007 "Big Band News" ], Lone Hill Jazz should have chosen another path.   I suppose they could have collected the original Lunceford recordings and put them together with Oliver's, sort of a "then and now" approach.  Even better, how about Oliver's Lunceford music joined with his "Sentimental Sy" Tommy Dorsey tribute, recorded in stereo for Dot in 1958?  That LP deserves to be released on CD! 
Big Band Library rating: GOOD

    Don't certain CD labels pay attention to what nice work their competitors do?  Don't they care what others have already done or plan?  Evidently, Montpellier doesn't on either count.
    It's commendable that Montpellier has put the twelve instrumentals from Edgar Sampson's 1957 Coral LP, "Swing Softly Sweet Sampson," on CD.  The problems began when they chose to call the album "Savoy Stomp," inviting confusion with Van Alexander's 1959 Capitol LP of the same name.  Not only that, but they decided to include twelve of those Billy May Lunceford Capitols (that makes the third time that music has been put on CD in about a year).  Enough is enough!
    Sampson did record three other songs under his own name, on May 25, 1939 for Vocalion: Don't Try Your Jive On Me, Pick Your Own Lick, and Sly Mongoose.  The latter was, admittedly, never issued at all, but could copies of the first two have been located?  If not, Sampson's Coral LP could have stood alone, with its correct title.  Or I would have suggested pairing it with, how about, Sauter-Finegan's 1958 RCA Victor LP, "Memories of Miller and Goodman," a "Living Stereo" recording which has yet to come out on CD.
    As with other Montpellier releases, cover artwork is simplistic and liner notes minimal.
Big Band Library rating: POOR

Louis Armstrong, "A Rare Batch of 'Live' Satch," Mr. Music MMCD-7015 [ 1943 ].
Bob Eberly, "Tender Love Songs," Flare ( UK ) ROYCD276 [ = his Grand Award LP plus
    select 1950s singles ].
Maynard Ferguson, "Octet," Universal  6857 [ = the 1955 EmArcy LP MG-36021 ].
Dizzy Gillespie, "The Cool World," Universal 6867 [ = the 1964 Mal Waldron movie score,
    previously available as a 1996 Polygram "2 LPs on 1 CD" with "Dizzy Goes Hollywood" ].
Benny Goodman, "'When Swing Was King,'" Mr. Music MMCD-7014 [ 1936-39 airchecks ].
Glen Gray, "casa loma in hi-fi!," Collectables 6767 [ = 1956 Capitol LP W-747 ].
---, "Swingin' Decade: Sounds of the Great Bands of the 40's," Collectables 6768
    [ = 1959 Capitol LP ST-1289 ].
Bobby Hackett, "The Most Beautiful Horn in the World / Night Love," Collectables 7881
    [ = 1962 Columbia LPs CL 1729 / CS 8529 + CL 1895 / CS 8695 ].
Lionel Hampton, "Swiss Radio Days, Volume 18," TCB ( Sw ) 2182 [ the second part of a
    1953 performance in Basel, Switzerland ].
Stan Kenton, "'Live' From Birdland," Mr. Music MMCD-7016 [ 1953, 1958 ].
Fats Waller, "Complete Recorded Works, Volume 5," JSP ( UK ) 949 [ 4-CDs; 1938-40 ].

Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes: Jul. 27, Hanover Theatre for the Performing
  Arts, Worcester, MA.
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole, Jul. 4, Avon, CO [ with The Pied Pipers ].
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow, Jul. 6, Place des Arts, Montreal,
    PQ, Canada [ "Battle of the Bands" with The Glenn Miller Orchestra ].
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke, Jul. 10, Calumet, MI; Jul. 12, Holt, MI;
    Jul. 30, Boston, MA.
Herb Jeffries (Ellington '39-'42) with Gerald Wilson (Lunceford '39-'42) and 18-pc orchestra, Jul. 12,
    Temecula Valley International Jazz Festival, Temecula, CA.
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien, Jul. 2, Fredericton Playhouse,
    Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; Jul. 3, Imperial Theatre, Saint John, New
    Brunswick, Canada; Jul. 5, Ottawa National Art Center, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada;
    Jul. 6, Place des Arts, Montreal, Canada; July. 7, Salle Albert-Rousseau, Quebec City,
    Canada; Jul. 9, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Jul. 10, Oakwood Village
    Shopping Center, Oakwood Village, OH; Jul. 11, Foellinger Theater, Fort Wayne, IN;
    Jul. 13, Iowa Central Community College, Ft. Dodge, IA; Jul. 15, Manitoba Centennial
    Centre, Winnipeg, Canada; Jul. 16, Casino Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada;
    Jul. 17, TCU Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; Jul. 18, Francis Winspear
    Centre Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jul. 19, Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary,
    Alberta, Canada; Jul. 21, Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada;
    Jul. 22, Royal Theatre, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Jul. 24, Arlene Schnitzer
    Theater, Portland, OR; Jul. 29, Redlands Bowl Amphitheatre, Redlands, CA; Jul. 31,
    Lincoln Park, Tracy, CA.
Russ Morgan Orchestra directed by Jack Morgan, Jul. 13, Indiana Roof Ballroom,
    Indianapolis, IN.

Louie Bellson, drummer (Fio Rito '42; Goodman '42 and '46; T. Dorsey '47-'49; James '51; Ellington '51-'53; Dorsey Bros.
     '55-'56), b.Jul. 6, 1924.  [ NOTE: official website, Wikipedia say Jul. 6 but Feather, Grove, Kinkle, Britannica say Jul. 26 ]
Doc Severinsen, trumpeter (Fio Rito '45; Barnet '47-'49; S. Donahue '48; T. Dorsey '50), b.Jul. 7, 1927.
Rusty Dedrick, trumpeter (Stabile '38-'39; Norvo '39-'41; Thornhill '41-'42 and '46-'47; McKinley '46),
    b.Jul. 12, 1918.
Roc Hillman, guitarist (Dorsey Bros. '34-'35; J. Dorsey '35-'40; Kyser '40-'47) - composer, b.Jul. 13, 1910.
Buddy Moreno, vocalist (Griff Williams '40?; Jurgens '40-'42; James '43-'44), b.Jul. 13, 1912.
Larry O'Brien, trombonist (T. Dorsey Orch. '61-'65) - leader (Miller Orch. '81-'83 / '88- ), b.Jul. 15, 1933.
Danny Bank, saxophonist (Barnet '42-'44; Goodman '45-'46; Whiteman '47; Shaw '49-'50), b.Jul. 17, 1922.
Kay Starr, vocalist (Crosby '39; Miller '39; Venuti '39-'42; Barnet '43-'45), b.Jul. 21, 1922.
Gloria DeHaven, singer (Savitt '42) - actress, b.Jul. 23, 1925.
Ronny Lang, saxophonist (Ennis '47; Brown '49-'90? [ not continuous ]), b.Jul. 24, 1927.
Peter Duchin, son of Eddy Duchin and pianist - bandleader, b.Jul. 28, 1937.
Hank Jones, pianist (Kirk '45; Shaw '53-'54; Goodman '56-'58), b.Jul. 31, 1918.

Evelyn Keyes, 91, actress - 8th wife of Artie Shaw (m.1957, separated, div.1985), d.Jul. 4, 2008,
    uterine cancer.
Bobby Durham, 71, drummer (Ellington '67), d.Jul. 7, 2008, lung cancer.
Gerald Wiggins, 86, pianist (Armstrong '43 + Aug. 1, '56 RCA Victor session), d.Jul. 13, 2008, "had been
    in poor health for months."
Jo Stafford, 90, vocalist (T. Dorsey '40-'42; Weston), d.Jul. 16. 2008, "congestive heart failure."
Joe Beck, 62, guitarist (Rich '73), d.Jul. 22, 2008, "complications of lung cancer."
Thomas Francis Dorsey III, 77, Tommy Dorsey's second child, d.Jul. 24, 2008.
Norman Dello Joio, 95, composer (wrote a Concerto for Clarinet for Shaw '49), d.Jul. 24, 2008.
Johnny Griffin, 80, tenor saxophonist (Hampton '45-'47?), d.Jul. 25, 2008.
Lee Young, 91, drummer (Waller '37; Hampton '40; Goodman '47), d.Jul. 31, 2008.

Jon Burlingame, "Get Szathmary!  Irving Szathmary, Get Smart's Forgotten Composer,", Jul. 21, 2008 [ states that Szathmary arranged tunes for
    Goodman '34 / Shaw '36 / Whiteman '37-'39 / Teagarden '40 ].
Roger Catlin, "Jazz Up Summertime With Turner Classic's Big-Band Movie Marathon,"
    [ Hartford, CT ] Courant /, Jul. 2, 2008.
Tony Eaton, "What's New?," [ The Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader,
    Number 318 / 3rd Edition 2008, pp.8-9 [ reports that Hunton Downs' Glenn Miller book
    has been delayed "in order to incorporate new information, hitherto totally embargoed,
    that had unexpectedly come to light in the States." ].
Geoffrey Himes, "Keeping Cab's Jive Alive," Baltimore [ magazine ], Jul. 2008 [ quoting
    one of Cab's daughters, Camay Murphy, 81, and his grandson, C. Calloway Brooks ].
Bill Schaaf, "The Glenn Miller Festival . . . Rousing Success for the 33rd Time," [ The Glenn
    Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 318 / 3rd Edition 2008, pp.10-11.
Ben Sisario, "Syracuse University Gets An Oldies Collection," New York Times, Jul. 2,
    2008 [ the 200,000-disc stock of Morty Savada's "Records Revisited" store has been
    donated to the University's Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive; it was said to be the
    "second-largest collection of 78s in the United States, after the Library of Congress’s."  ].
Roland Taylor, "Miller's Mighty Service Band: The ensemble in focus," [ The Glenn Miller
    Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 318 / 3rd Edition 2008, pp.2-5 [ a continuing
    chronological study, now up to March 1944 ].

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© 2008 Hasmick Promotions Limited
    By now, any big band CDs issued should, ideally, be in pristine sound quality, free of duplication from other titles, with previously unreleased or hard-to-find material, and packaged attractively including informed liner notes. 
    Some labels always do a very good or excellent job, such as Collectables' latest Glen Gray issues shown below.  And welcome back, by the way, to Wayne Knight, with his Mr. Music imprint on three attractive releases.
    But, as we again see this month, another label just doesn't put much effort into it.
    A number of activities will this month draw attention to the 100th anniversary of the birth of bandleader - saxophonist Louis Jordan, who was born July 8, 1908 in Brinkley, Arkansas.
    The U.S. Postal Service will unveil a stamp depicting the poster from Jordan's 1945 film short "Caldonia."  According to,
which gives online news for postal employees, "Caldonia" is "often cited as a precursor to today's music videos." 
    The stamp will be one of five issued as part of a series celebrating "Vintage Black Cinema"; among the others is the 1929 film "Black and Tan," which included the first screen appearance of Duke Ellington.
    There are materials related to Jordan being shown at two museums in the Arkansas Delta.
    The Delta Cultural Center, on Cherry St. in Helena, AR, has an exhibit titled "Jazzin' Jammin' & Jivin': The History of Jazz on Film," which includes four original posters from Jordan films, lobby cards, sheet music, and even his saxophone.  On the 11th of hits month, The Center will also show film footage of Jordan's music and present a free lecture by Stephen Koch, a musician, writer, and radio host in Little Rock, AR. 
    The Central Delta Depot's Museum Gallery, located in a restored train depot on W. Cypress St. in his hometown, is exhibiting such items as a bronze bust of Jordan, some promotional advertisements, photographs and sheet music, and a few records.  The bust may be relocated outside, if funding can be obtained. 
    In March, Jordan's vintage films were shown as part of the Ozark Foothills Film Festival, and in June the annual Chicago Blues Festival included a panel discussion, "Louis Jordan: Hitmaker of Blues, Jazz, and R&B," remembering his work.
    This October, it is hoped that a documentary about Jordan's life, "Is you is... the Louis Jordan Story," will be ready to debut at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.  Filmmaker Kevin Clark, in a partnership with the University of Central Arkansas, began pre-production in 2007 with a $5,000 grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council.  Last November, they were given an additional $25,000 grant for the production phase.
    Still, some fans are disappointed that there isn't more attention paid to Jordan nowdays.
    "Maybe it's too much historical excavation for people," Koch wonders.  "Maybe it's too far gone."
    Hopefully, Koch's lecture, the stamp, exhibits, and the upcoming film will help to increase the appreciation of Jordan.
    One of Cab's daughters, Camay Calloway Murphy, served as Consultant and a Contributor.
    Last fall, the items were unveiled in the Baltimore City Hall rotunda.  Subsequent venues around town have been the Eubie Blake Cultural Center, the Towson State University African American Cultural Center, the Coppin State University Library, and the Top of the World at Baltimore's World Trade Center.
    From the 19th through 21st of this month, the exhibit will be shown at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall during "Artscape," a public arts festival which includes "The 2nd Annual Cab Calloway Vocal Competition" on the 20th.  The first-place winner, who will receive a prize of $2,500, gets to perform at the Baltimore Book Festival this September and at Artscape next year.
    The contest rules directed applicants to submit a cassette or CD of at least two, but no more than three, songs, with a specification that "Your combo must include at least one song previously recorded by Cab Calloway.  Examples of Cab Calloway selections are 'Basin Street Blues,' 'Hello, Dolly,' 'How Come You Do Me Like You Do?' and 'St. James Infirmary,' 'September Song,' 'I Got the World on a String,' and 'I’ve Got You Under My Skin.'  A list of songs can be provided upon request."
    Cab's grandson and director of The Cab Calloway Orchestra, C. Calloway Brooks, served as one of the trio of judges choosing the finalists this year.
    An exhibit praising the life and career of Cab Calloway, "Hi De Ho Zoot-Suiter From Baltimore," still has another stop or two to make, before it is permanently placed at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, located in Baltimore, MD.
    Sponsored by The Black Jewish Forum of Baltimore, Inc. (BLEWS) and curated by John Willen Cohen and Anne Curran, the exhibit includes photographs, original documents and artifacts, and artwork depicting Calloway's accomplishments.
© 2008 Proper Records
    One of the premium cable channels, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), will this month be showing 46 films and shorts with swing and sweet bands, in a theme called "Big Bands in the Movies - Wednesdays in July."
    Among the bandleaders to be seen in feature-length motion pictures are Ray Anthony ("This Could Be the Night," 1957), Jimmy Dorsey ("I Dood It," 1943), Tommy Dorsey ("Las Vegas Nights," 1941; "Ship Ahoy," 1942; "Du Barry Was a Lady," 1943), Benny Goodman ("Hollywood Hotel," 1937), Harry James ("Best Foot Forward," 1943), Gene Krupa ("Rhythm Romance " [ originally titled "Some Like It Hot" ], 1939), Kay Kyser ("That's Right-You're Wrong," 1939), and Artie Shaw ("Dancing Co-Ed," 1939; "Second Chorus," 1940).
    A number of films to be shown feature more than one bandleader, namely "Bathing Beauty," 1944 (Xavier Cugat, Harry James); "Cabin in the Sky," 1943 (Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington); "Jam Session," 1944 (Louis Armstrong, Charlie Barnet, Jan Garber, Glen Gray, Teddy Powell, Alvino Rey); "Reveille with Beverly," 1943 (Count Basie, Bob Crosby, Duke Ellington, Freddie Slack); "A Song Is Born," 1948 (Louis Armstrong, Charlie Barnet, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton); and "Two Girls and a Sailor," 1944 (Xavier Cugat, Harry James).
    Still more leaders, including Desi Arnaz, Bunny Berigan (as part of Freddie Rich's orchestra), Cab Calloway, Larry Clinton, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Vincent Lopez, Jimmie Lunceford, Ozzie Nelson, Ray Noble, and Rita Rio, will be presented in film shorts.
    Each Wednesday evening in July, a different line-up of bands will be shown.  A complete listing may be viewed at

Various, "Blues in the Night," Warner Home Video [ with Jimmie Lunceford and Will Osborne ].