5/22/16

Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra

Trombonist and band leader Tommy Dorsey led one of the most successful orchestras of the swing era. Jazz critics tend to agree that the band reached its musical peak in the early 40s. By that time, Tommy had recruited several new ace musicians, including Ziggy Elman on trumpet (previously with Benny Goodman), Joe Bushkin on piano (previously with Bunny Berigan), and Buddy Rich on drums (previously with Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw). He had also drafted Sy Oliver (previously with Jimmie Lunceford) to supply arrangements for the orchestra's swing numbers. For the vocal numbers he had recruited a new boy singer, Frank Sinatra, and a new girl singer, Connie Haines (both previously with Harry James) as well as a vocal group, the Pied Pipers.

Unfortunately, this golden era of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra has never been properly reissued by RCA/Bluebird/Victor. (The recordings that feature Frank Sinatra are of course an exception.) On CD, we have the essential 'Yes, Indeed!' single-disc compilation. The Chronological Classics series ends in 1939, just before greatness begins. On LP, the French branch of RCA has issued several volumes of 'The Best of Tommy Dorsey', but it is very far from complete.

Here I am featuring two tracks from 1940–1941, both arranged by the great Sy Oliver. 'Swing Time up in Harlem' is a catchy uptempo number that features the beautiful voice of Connie Haines. Her brief vocal chorus starts very late, at 2:10 – this is a typical arranger's device of Sy Oliver. 'Serenade to the Spot' is a hypnotic and hard swinging slow instrumental. Both are generous 78 rpm recordings, each being close to three and a half minutes long.

Discographical data from The Jazz Discography by Tom Lord:

Tommy Dorsey And His Orchestra: Ziggy Elman, Ray Linn, Chuck Peterson, Clyde Hurley (tp) Les Jenkins, George Arus, Lowell Martin (tb) Johnny Mince (cl,as) Fred Stulce, Heinie Beau (as) Don Lodice, Paul Mason (ts) Joe Bushkin (p) Clark Yocum (g) Sid Weiss (b) Buddy Rich (d) Connie Haines (vcl) Sy Oliver (arr) Tommy Dorsey (tb,ldr)

Hollywood, CA, October 16, 1940
055108-1    Swing Time up in Harlem    Vic 27249

Tommy Dorsey And His Orchestra: Ziggy Elman, Ray Linn, Chuck Peterson, Jimmy Blake (tp) George Arus, Les Jenkins, Lowell Martin (tb) Johnny Mince (cl,as) Fred Stulce, Heinie Beau (as) Don Lodice, Paul Mason (ts) Joe Bushkin (p) Clark Yocum (g) Sid Weiss (b) Buddy Rich (d) Sy Oliver (arr) Tommy Dorsey (tb,ldr)

New York, February 17, 1941
060907-1    Serenade to the Spot    Vic 27374

LP source: The Best of Tommy Dorsey, Volume 7 (1938–1941) (RCA(F) PM42036)





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