The big bands are back
in a new and exciting way!
   Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey are included in a new 5-disc (four CDs and one DVD) boxed set called "Sinatra: New York," to be offered by Reprise Records beginning this month.  (It follows Reprise's 2006 "Sinatra: Vegas" set.) 
    The Dorsey Brothers are heard at the Manhattan Center in New York City, on February 3rd, 1955, during the joint "WNEW Make Believe Ballroom and Tommy Dorsey Orch. 20th Anniversary stage show."  After an introduction by Martin Block, the brothers accompany Frank Sinatra, who happened to be in town at the Copacabana.  He sings I'll Never Smile Again, Oh! Look At Me Now, and This Love of Mine.  Note: this material did come out once before, in 1995, on a Sinatra collector's CD, "This One's for Tommy" (Voice V-CD-1103).
    Also a part of the package is Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd, conducted by Sinatra's pianist, Bill Miller, which accompanies the singer on the first of two nights at Madison Square Garden on October 12, 1974.  (The second night was televised as the TV special "Sinatra: The Main Event.")
    The rest of the set is previously-unreleased Sinatra at various other venues in New York City, including the United Nations (1963); Carnegie Hall (Apr. 8, 1974 and June 1984); and Radio City Music Hall (June 1990). 
    Footage on the DVD was taped at Carnegie Hall in 1980.

Billy Butterfield, "Ray Conniff & Billy Butterfield," Collectables 7944 [ = Columbia LPs "Conniff Meets
      Butterfield" and "Ray Conniff & Billy Butterfield: Just Kiddin' Around"; NOTE: "Conniff Meets Butterfield" was previously released
      on CD as Columbia CK 8155 ].
Sonny Dunham, "Always a Sonny Day," Joyce JRC1031 [ broadcast excerpts from 1942-44 ].
Lionel Hampton, "Three Classic Albums Plus," Avid ( UK ) 993 [ 2-CD set; = LPs "Apollo Hall Concert"
      (Epic LN 3190); "Lionel Hampton & His Giants" (Norgran MG-N1080 / Verve MG-V8170); "Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Teddy
      Wilson" (Clef MG-C681 / Verve MG-V8066) and additional tracks  ].
Harry James, "New York World's Fair 1940 / The Blue Room, Hotel Lincoln 1941," Hep
    ( UK ) CD 88 [ seems to be, in large part, similar to Ballad DHS-CD-9, "Young Dick Haymes with Harry James and his
      Orchestra," issued in 2005 by the Dick Haymes Society.  The differences are that the Hep CD has Tempo de Luxe, Answer Man,
      Twist of the Wrist, Do I Worry?, La Paloma, Lost in Love, and Dodgers' Fan Dance, while the Ballad issue has Cirbiribin, That's
      for Me, You Think of Everything, Sharp As a Tack, One Look At You, Intermezzo, For Want of a Star, and Cross Country Jump ].
Stan Kenton, "From Eugene Armory Live," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY 802
      [ another portion of Feb. 19, 1953 program from Eugene Armory in Eugene, OR ].
Glenn Miller, "Glenn's Travels," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY 801 [ songs with places in their
      titles, such as Beautiful Ohio, Jersey Bounce, Fifth Avenue, and Under Blue Canadian Skies ].
The Glenn Miller Orchestra, "Superb!," Victor Entertainment ( J ) VICP-64773 [ Moonlight
      Serenade - Pennsylvania 6-5000 - The Story of a Starry Night - Tuxedo Junction - At Last - Little Brown Jug - Serenade in Blue -
      Anvil Chorus - Perfidia - Chattanooga Choo Choo - (I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo - Skylark - American Patrol - Rhapsody in Blue -
      Caribbean Clipper - Here We Go Again - In the Mood - Juke Box Saturday Night - Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree - Song of the
      Volga Boatmen - A String of Pearls - Danny Boy - St. Louis Blues March ].
---, "Christmas," Victor Entertainment ( J ) VICP-64774 [ Jingle Bells - White Christmas - I'll Be Home for
      Christmas - Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - We Wish You a Merry Christmas - Silver Bells -
      The Twelve Days of Christmas - medley: Oh Holy Night / Joy to the World / O Little Town of Bethlehem / Deck the Halls - Silent
      Night - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let It Snow! - Winter Wonderland - The Christmas Song -
      medley: Away in a Manger / Ave Maria / The First Noel - In the Christmas Mood - Sleigh Ride- Auld Lang Syne ].
Rudy Vallee, "Volume 2: I'm Just a Vagabond Lover," Vocalion ( UK ) CDEA 6164 [ 24 selections
      recorded between 1929 and 1937 ].
various artists, "An Evening with Lerner and Loewe," Sepia ( UK ) 1138 [ 2-CDs; = RCA Victor
      LSP-6005 including Phil Harris singing With a Little Bit of Luck, Get Me to the Church On Time, Thank Heaven for Little Girls,
      and I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore; NOTE: this same basic album was issued on CD in Aug. 2009 as Flare ( UK ) ROYCD 294 ].

various artists, "Warner Brothers Big Band, Jazz & Swing Short Subject Collection," Warner
    Archive Collection [ 6-DVDs; including Shaw, Herman, J. Dorsey, others; very similar to "Cavalcade of Vitaphone Shorts
      Volume 1: Swing, Swing, Swing!: Classic Big Band and Jazz Shorts from the '30s and '40s" (MGM ML 103928) ].

    "Tommy Dorsey was a wonderful musician and a man I consider my mentor," Buddy Morrow, who leads today's Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, told Pittsburgh [ PA ] Post-Gazette writer Dave Zuchowski recently.  "He treated me very well, but he was also a tough band leader who demanded the best from his musicians."
    Morrow, now age 90 and leader of the Dorsey band since 1977, will perform on the 5th of this month at the Olin Fine Arts Center in Washington, PA and on the 6th at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA.
    "People who come to hear us, hear us the way the orchestra is supposed to sound," he said. "We're authentic and play authentic arrangements.  With Tommy, there was no excuse for a lax performance.  He demanded 100 percent from his musicians at all times, and I try to carry on that tradition."

Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes: Nov. 2, Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore,
    China; Nov. 6-8, "A Tribute to Count Basie," Cape May Jazz Festival, Cape May, NJ.
Tex Beneke Orchestra directed by Jim Snodgrass: Nov. 20, Livermore Performing Arts
    Center, Livermore, CA [ with The Ink Spots, The Swing Sisters, Leigh Vance]; Nov. 21,
    "Tribute to Glenn Miller and the Vocal Groups," Gallo Center for the Arts, Modesto, CA
    [ with The Ink Spots, The Four Lads, The DeMarche Sisters ].
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole: Nov. 5, Florida [ sic ].
Les Elgart Orchestra directed by Russ Dorsey: Nov.1-8, seven-day Carnival cruise from
    Galveston, TX [ with a smaller band ].
Duke Ellington Orchestra conducted by Paul Mercer Ellington: Nov. 5, The Strathmore,
    Bethesda, MD.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke: Nov. 7, Tucson, AZ; Nov. 20, Crossville,
Sammy Kaye Orchestra directed by Roger Thorpe: Nov. 12, New Paltz High School, New
    Paltz, NY; Nov. 13, Clemens Center, Elmira, NY; Nov. 14, Smith Opera House, Geneva,
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien: Nov. 2, Stage West, Mississagua,
    Ontario, Canada; Nov. 3, Carmens Banquet Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Nov.
    5, Merrimack College, N. Andover, MA; Nov. 7, State Theater, Ithaca, NY; Nov. 8, Capitol
    Theatre, Rome, NY; Nov. 9-10, Westchester Broadway Theatre, Elmsford, NY; Nov. 13-
    30, first portion of 2009 Japan tour.
Russ Morgan Orchestra directed by Jack Morgan: Nov. 22, Indiana Roof Ballroom,
    Indianapolis, IN.
Herb Geller, alto saxophonist (Thornhill '50), b. Nov. 2, 1928.
Jim Harwood, trombonist (McKinley '42; Miller AAF '43-'44), b. Nov. 4, 1923.
Louise Tobin, vocalist (James '39; Goodman '39), b. Nov. 11, 1918.
Georgia Carroll Kyser, widow of Kay Kyser and vocalist (Kyser '43-'45), b.Nov. 18, 1919.
Johnny Mandel, trombonist - arranger (Raeburn '45; Rich '46 / '48; Shaw '49; Basie '53) - composer
     (The Shadow of Your Smile), b. Nov. 23, 1925.
Jack Sheldon, trumpeter (Kenton '58-'59; Goodman '59-'60 / '65 / '76 / '78), b. Nov. 30, 1931.

Malcolm Laycock, 70?, host of "Sunday Night At 10" (BBC Radio, 1995-2009), "Kings of Swing,"
    "Glenn Miller - the Legacy," et al, d.Nov. 8, 2009.
Dick Katz, 85, pianist (Carter "Further Definitions" LP '61; Eldridge '73-'75?), d.Nov. 10, 2009, lung cancer.
Bob Keane, 87, clarinetist (so-called "Artie Shaw Band" with Ace Hudkins '49; "Tribute to Artie Shaw" by the "Members
      of the Artie Shaw Orchestra" Crown) - record producer, d.Nov. 28, 2009, kidney failure.

"The Famous Vincent Lopez Orchestra,"
Lisa Millegan.  "Big Band Vocals: Groups pay tribute to Glenn Miller and his era with a
    program at the Gallo Center," Modesto [ CA ] Bee, Nov. 13, 2009.
Marc Myers.  "Jazzwax: Artie Shaw: Making of a Box Set,", Nov. 4, 2009
      [ interview with Andreas Meyer, who did the sound restoration for the new Mosaic Shaw set ].
---.  "Jazzwax: Artie Shaw: 1938-45 RCA Sessions,", Nov. 4, 2009 [ review of
      new Mosaic Shaw set ].
Larry Reni Thomas, "Do You Remember Swinging At the Barn?," Wilmington [ NC ] Journal,
    Nov. 16, 2009 [ about a dance hall in Wilmington, NC where bands such as Calloway, Hampton, Eckstine, Gillespie, Basie,
     and Armstrong appeared between 1944 and 1952 ].

    Recently it was revealed that author Gene Lees has completed writing a full-length biography of Artie Shaw, to be titled Echo and Narcissus: The Life of Artie Shaw and published by Exile Editions, based in Toronto, Canada.  Lees and Shaw were friends for a long time.  ~ ~ ~ It's been promised for many months that the official Artie Shaw website was to be updated.  Shaw passed away in December 2004 and, as of this writing, the website content is virtually the same as when he died.  With the release of the new Mosaic Shaw set and the looming centenary in 2010 of Shaw's birth, now is the perfect time.  Current information, including something about The Artie Shaw Foundation and its mission, would be welcome. ~ ~ ~ Chicago Public Library is in negotiations with an award-winning big band historian to be the guest at a Shaw tribute next fall.  The program will be free and open to the public.

send feedback about November 2009 "Big Band News" via e-mail
return to "Big Band News" directory
go to Big Band Library homepage

compiled by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA

    Mosaic Records' new 7-CD boxed set, "Classic Artie Shaw Bluebird and Victor Sessions" (MD7-244), contains some of the best big band sounds ever recorded! 
    Shaw, a creative and ever-evolving musician, played the clarinet marvelously, with a distinctive, lyrical, full tone.
    Besides his "rent-payers" like Begin the Beguine, Frenesi, and Star Dust, there are so many delightful performances featuring him, his big band, his Gramercy 5, and many of the era's most talented sidemen, vocalists, and arrangers, including Roy Eldridge, Buddy Rich, Tony Pastor, Billie Holiday, Hot Lips Page, Ray Conniff, and Billy Butterfield.   
Artie Shaw at the peak of his fame.
Photograph courtesy of the Institute of Jazz Studies.
Brochure © 2009 Mosaic Records.
    Meanwhile, another Artie Shaw release worth noting is "The Last Recordings, Volume 2: The Final Sessions, 1954" (Nimbus NI 2721/22).  It duplicates the selections first issued in 1993 as "Artie Shaw: More Last Recordings: The Final Sessions" (MusicMasters Jazz 65101).
    The "final" performances were recorded in February and March 1954 in New York City and in Hollywood during June 1954.
    Members of his Gramercy 5 at that time were Hank Jones (piano), Tal Farlow or Joe Puma (guitar), Tommy Potter (bass), Joe Roland (vibraphone), and Irv Kluger (drums).
    The new Nimbus issue is a complementary title to "Artie Shaw: The Last Recordings, Volume 1" (Nimbus NI 2709/10), released in 2008.
© 2009 Wyastone Estate Limited.
    All together, there are over 150 tracks, including 12 previously-unissued alternate takes.
    Yet Mosaic made the controversial decision not to include a single vocal by Helen Forrest, one of Shaw's (and, in fact, the entire big band era's) most respected singers.  Couldn't they have squeezed in at least a few examples of her work with Shaw?
    In any event, I'll bet that longtime Shaw fans and completists already have all of the important material from this period, on one release or another. 
    Mosaic's advertising stated, "To offer the finest sound possible, we've located the original metal parts and pristine vinyl test pressings from the Victor and Bluebird vault."
    Maybe so.  Yet, curiously, I don't think that this set, generally-speaking, shows off the music any better than certain past releases have. 
    Basically, particular tunes that were always clear remain so here, while the sound of songs that were average elsewhere are still average, and a few passages, like the start of Indian Love Call, are, evidently, unalterably grainy. 
    Without a doubt, I enjoyed hearing, to name but a few, 1938-39's Jungle Drums, My Heart Stood Still, Rosalie (listen to the piano behind Tony Pastor's vocal), and The Donkey Serenade.  They sound great - but, as I say, those songs have always been clear.
    Tell me, for instance, where did the odd ticks or pops on Yesterdays come from? 
    And though Shaw's 1940-42 band with strings had a lovely, majestic feel, many of those tracks remain sonically average (okay but nothing startling), just as they were on most earlier issues.
    I was hoping that, for example, Moonglow would be better than ever.  It's one of my own personal favorites and is always magnificent to hear, yet the sound quality seems to be no different on Mosaic than in the past.
    Was it my imagination that, for example, there's now some brief distortion on the trumpet solo of Star Dust or surface noise which I noticed fade out the moment after Dancing in the Dark ends? 
    By the time I came to the 1944-45 sides - having listened to the entire set in almost one sitting, through a pair of headphones and at a very loud volume - either my ears were fatigued or the highs began to grow thin and tinny, particularly on the trumpet section passages.
   To my hearing, some of the best past remasterings of Shaw recordings included, on LP, "The Great Artie Shaw" (RCA Camden CAL-465, 1959), "This Is Artie Shaw" (RCA Victor VPM-6039, 1971), and "Artie Shaw Featuring Roy Eldridge" (RCA Vintage Series LPV-582, 1972).  Or, more recently, on CD, I would name "Artie Shaw: Blues in the Night" (RCA Bluebird 2432, 1990) and the two Time-Life "Big Bands" volumes, "Artie Shaw" (TCD-0004, 1991) and "Encore Artie Shaw" (TCD-0018, 1993).
    I believe that the equalization settings and balance between sonic highs and lows on those releases better served the music.  I remain more satisfied, on the whole, with those efforts than with what Mosaic's engineer has done.
    Further, while the alternate takes which have been included by Mosaic are interesting to hear once or twice (and it's appropriate that they come at the end of each disc), in my opinion none of them are as good as the standard, previously-issued masters. 
    Oddly, since Summertime is considered one of the Shaw band classics (Artie felt it was, without any false sense of modesty) I'm surprised that its alternate, slightly faster take was not included in this set as a comparison.  That alternate was, when I was a teenager, the only Summertime of Shaw's that I knew, having been issued on the 1958 album "Artie Shaw: a man and his Dream" (RCA Victor LPM-1648), among others.
    Moving on, while I don't doubt that John McDonough knows a lot about his subject (I've admired his writings for years), I wish he hadn't started things off with a comparison of Shaw and Benny Goodman.  Surely after all this time, and in (what some might consider) today's definitive Shaw package, these well-worn Shaw vs. Goodman discussions need to stop.  They had two different sounds, two different approaches, two different personalities, two different outcomes - and comparing apples to oranges is meaningless.  They are both masters and if, for some odd reason, a person doesn't like one or the other (and enjoys shooting potholes in either one's music or personality), that's their loss.
    I did like the booklet's pictures which showed Shaw and his musicians as happy and youthful the most, and appreciated the attempts at identification of each - but there were some errors made, like the photo which supposedly is of "the September 2, 1941 Victor session," even though it plainly shows the words "Nola Studios" on the large plate-glass window behind the band.  The band was rehearsing, not recording.
    I also have to say that there are some mistakes in the text, such as when McDonough calls Evensong "Eventide" or spells trumpeter Bernie Privin's name "Previn."
    While it's good if some previous incomplete or sloppy discographical research has been corrected, a new boo-boo seems to have been committed in identifying John Bartee as the arranger of Back Bay Shuffle.  Mosaic relied on the Artie Shaw Collection held at the University of Arizona, but I'd suggest that if the manuscript of Back Bay Shuffle there gives Bartee's name, it was because he either did some minor revoicing or other small work on it for the 1949 band and that it's not the original, 1938 manuscript.
    Over the years, Mosaic has set the highest standards for big band reissues.  But I feel that, for the range of reasons discussed above, they've slightly let us down this time. 
    Ultimately, however, as a testament to Shaw's own incredible artistry, superior talent, and fierce convictions - despite whatever objections I've expressed about Mosaic's effort - this was a must-buy for me.  
Big Band Library rating: