Les Brown and His Duke Blue Devils / and His Orchestra

Clarinetist and alto saxophonist Les Brown is another one to those second-tier swing artists that have not been reissued in full on LP or CD. This is especially true for his Decca and Bluebird years, 1936–1940. Les Brown started his first band at Duke University and they were accordingly known as the Duke Blue Devils. With that band we hear Swamp Fire, which had previously been recorded by Ozzie Nelson. The band soon split up and Brown formed another orchestra in New York a year later. The band switched back and forth between Decca and Bluebird, and by 1940 they were back at Decca for a final session there. We hear their dramatic rendition of Comanche War Dance that had been recorded by Ray Noble and Charlie Barnet a few months earlier.

Les Brown And His Duke Blue Devils: Corky Cornelius, Bob Thorne, Earl Kirk (tp) Don Maires, Joe Pilato (tb) Les Brown (cl,as,arr) Herb Muse, Joe Grando (as) Dutch McMillan, Stewart McKay (ts) John Goodman (p) Stacy McKee (g) Kenny Dutton (b) Howard Smith (d) Glen Osser (arr)

New York, March 18, 1937
62047-A     Swamp Fire                                   Decca 1231

Les Brown And His Orchestra: Eddie Bailey, Bob Thorne, Paul Fredericks (tp) Warren Brown, Si Zentner, Ronnie Chase (tb) Les Brown (cl,as) Steve Madrick (cl,as) Herb Muse (as) Wolfe Tayne (ts) Eddie Scherr (sop,ts,bar) Billy Rowland (p) John Knepper (b) Eddie Julian (d) Joe Petrone (arr)

New York, April 9, 1940
67512-A    Comanche War Dance (jp arr)      Decca 3155

LP source: Big Bands: Les Brown (Time Life STBB-11)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this! I live in Durham, NC, the home of Duke University, and am always looking for more music and history relevant to our local jazz community during the 1920's through the 1940's. I have the Jazz Collector Edition CD of the Blue Devils' music, so it's nice to hear they recorded even more material that didn't make that compilation CD.

    You may have already seen this information, but there's a nice timeline and some background history on the dance band culture at Duke that really set up Les Brown for success at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Ambassadors. Last year I went through the Les Brown collection at Duke's archives and, unfortunately, none of the Blue Devils' charts were in the collection.