Jan Savitt and His Top Hatters

Bandleader Jan Savitt is another one of those swing era artists that have been almost completely ignored when it comes to official reissues. He recorded more than 150 songs for Variety, Bluebird, Decca, and Victor between 1937 and 1942, but only a handful of them are available in digital form today. '720 in the Books' was one of his greatest hits.

Savitt's band is best known for its distinct "shuffle rhythm", a device that was used already on the earliest recordings but would become even more exaggerated over the years. Savitt was also one of the first white band leaders to hire a black singer, George "Bon Bon" Tunnell (previously in the vocal trio The Three Keys).

Here I am featuring two recordings from 1937, taken from the Ajax LP 'Jan Savitt in Disco Order, Vol. 1". Ajax records are notorious for their poor sound quality, but this LP is actually better than the average. We first hear the Will Hudson instrumental 'Cross Country Hop', which was also recorded by the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra and by Fud Candrix in the same year. Jan Savitt is listed as playing the violin, but there is no audible evidence of that on this recording. The second song, 'Gypsy in My Soul', recorded after the switch to Bluebird, features both Bon Bon on vocals as well as a nice shuffle rhythm. This was the first recorded version of that song, which would go on to be quite popular over the years, with more than 100 recordings up to present day.

Discographical data from The Jazz Discography by Tom Lord:

Jan Savitt and His Top Hatters: Jack Hanson, Harold Kearns (tp) Chuck Evans, Al Leopold (tb) Joe Kearns, James Schultz (as,cl) Harry Roberts (ts,cl) John Warrington (ts,cl) Irving Leshner (p) Dick Wharton (g) Jan Savitt (vln) Thomas Johnson (b) Ralph Levengood (d) Will Hudson (arr)

New York, March 15, 1937
M-251-2          Cross Country Hop (wh arr)           Variety 585

Jan Savitt and His Top Hatters: Jack Hanson, Harold Kearns (tp) Chuck Evans, Al Leopold (tb) Gabe Galinas (as) Harry Roberts (as) James Schultz (as) John Warrington (ts) Irving Leshner (p) Frank Rasmus (g) Howard Cook (b) George White (d) Bon Bon (vcl) Jan Savitt (arr,dir)

New York, November 17, 1937
BSO17063-1    Gypsy in My Soul (bb vcl)             Bluebird B7295

LP source: Jan Savitt in Disco Order, Vol. 1 (Ajax LP-113)

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