If asked to think of a jazz virtuoso percussionist, most people will come up with the name Gene Krupa. As Peter Dempsey points out in the album's booklet notes, there were many talented drummers around at the time but Krupa went commercial and became virtually synonymous with the Swing Era. During the early 1930's he worked his way up playing with, among others, Irving Aaronson's Commanders, Rus Columbo and Mal Hallett, and in theatre bands directed by Red Nichols which brought him into contact with Benny Goodman in 1933. "The enthusiastic Gene was a star sideman with Goodman's recently-formed big band from December 1934, becoming a household name by mid-1935 when the Swing Era really took flight. His virtuoso playing and screen-star looks won him a vast, predominantly female fan following but led to friction with the jealous irascible Goodman who felt upstaged by his over-large aura. They parted company for several years and Kupra immediately formed his own band that made its debut in Atlantic City in April 1938. Drug charges interrupted his career in the early 1940s, and his band folded but Goodman invited him to tour US Army bases. After the war Gene formed another band that recorded a long list of Krupa greats. After the closing of the big band era, Krupa began touring with quartets, Jazz At The Philharmonic and other small ensembles for a while and ran a drum training school in New York. In the early 1960s he worked with Charlie Ventura and alongside Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton and the Goodman Quartet. His health began to fail and he died in Yonkers New York in October 1973 aged just 64.
Gene Krupa appeared in a number of films including: The Glenn Miller Story (1953), The Benny Goodman Story (1955) and The Gene Krupa Story (1959- entitled Drum Crazy in the UK).
This recording includes many of his big hits including: 'Swing is Here', the 12-minute marathon 'Sing, Sing, Sing', 'Tuxedo Junction', 'It All Comes Back to Me Now' (with vocalist Howard Dulany), 'Leave Us Leap', 'Dark Eyes', 'How High the Moon' and Bonaparte's Retreat'. The latter featured the virtuoso cornet of Wild Bill Davison and the recording reached No. 9 in the US pop charts. Besides the electric charge of Krupa's drumming there is, of course, also much virtuoso jazz playing to admire in this collection. One of the highlights is the suave vocalism of Anita O'Day heard in 'Just a Little Bit South of North Carolina', 'Let Me Off Uptown', 'Bolero at the Savoy', the tremendously popular 'Opus One' and 'Boogie Blues'. Anita was to go on to develop a sophisticated new style of jazz singing with Stan Kenton.
Great album: get swinging.