The Great BIG BAND Collection
Fletcher Henderson, Woody Herman, Les Brown, Jimmy Dorsey,
Sabam Crescendo Joan Records No 7153
- Big Chief De Sota
- Shoe Shine Boy
- Knock, Knock Who’s There
- Until Today
- Wild party
- You Can Depend On Me
- Blue Lou
- Rug Cutter’s Swing
- I’ll Always Be In Love with You
- Hotter Than ‘Ell
- Christopher Columbus
- I’m A Fool for Loving You
- Grand Terrace Rhythm
- Jim Town Blues
- Moonrise in the Lowlands
- Sing, Sing, Sing
Fletcher Henderson was a key figure in the development
of big band jazz and the launch of swing. As a pianist composer
and arranger he was the ideal person to lead a band, although
he spent his working life as a musician, he held degrees in Chemistry
and Mathematics from Atlanta University.
His band had a long residency at New York’s famous
Roseland Ballroom; this residency enabled him to employ musicians
of the calibre of Louis Armstrong, Buster Bailey and Coleman Hawkins.
This combined with his superb skills as an arranger made it possible
for him to use these stars to help to develop a successful swing
band. He was, by all accounts, much in demand writing arrangements
for other bandleaders, the most notable of which was Benny Goodman
for whom he also played piano for a while.
The tracks on this CD come from the period 1934
to 36 and whilst they obviously sound somewhat dated, the swing
style is starting to emerge and the two-beat style of earlier
bands is less prevalent. Buster Bailey,
Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Henry Allen, Ben Webster
and Russell Precope are all featured here and each went on to
become top men in the jazz world.
Some of the material is a bit ‘corny’, but Fletcher
Henderson had to make a living like everyone else and this in
no way diminishes the credit he must take for being the starting
point for swing with his arrangements. What he lacked however
was the dominating personality to make it happen in his band.
Benny Goodman had that in plenty and if you contrast the Goodman
versions of Fletcher’s arrangements with those of the Henderson
band the difference is obvious.
This disc features the Herman Band between 1945 &! 947.
- Four brother
- Goosey Gander
- Blowin’ Up a storm
- Keeper of the Flame
- Early Autumn
- Lemon Drop
- Woodchopper’s ball
- Northwest Passage
- I’ve Got News for You
- The Goof & I
- Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe
- Early Autumn
- Sidewalks of Cuba
- Keen & Peachy
These Herman bands had an enormous influence
on the whole Big Band scene, an influence that is felt even to
day. The number of people who later became top names in jazz who
passed through Herman’s bands is phenomenal. Pete Condoli, Shorty
Rogers, Bill Harris, John LaPorta, Flip Phillips, Joe Mondragon,
Don Lamond, Chubby Jackson, Neal Hefti, Red Rodney Ernie Royal,
Stan Getz, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Terry Gibbs and
Herbie Stewart are just those from this album, the complete list
would be five times longer!
Most of the tracks are classic Woody Herman;
it’s quite a while since I heard a lot of them, but I was brought
up with this music and I still love it. The Herman Band always
swings and although Woody was not a Goodman or Shaw, he was a
good enough jazz clarinet player to show up any soloist in his
band who did not perform. His philosophy was that, if you hire
all the best musicians and arrangers, then you will have a good
chance of having a good band. It was simple and enormously effective
and Woody stayed with it for his whole life.
This was an enormously important part of Big
Band history and is required listening for anyone into the music.
Band 14 is labelled as another version of Early Autumn, although
it ends with the melody line, it is probably part of Ralph Burns
Summer Sequence. It is a very good track in any case.
The last track Keen and Peachy includes solos
from Getz, Chaloff, Sims and Royal, all of whom are on great form,
playing on a Ralph Burns/Shorty Rogers arrangement.
These tracks were all made during 1951 and all
have Dave Pell, who had a completely unique feathery sound on
tenor saxophone that makes him instantly identifiable.
- You’re Blasé
- Green Eyes
- My Baby just Cares for Me
- You’re Driving Me Crazy
- You’re a Sweetheart
- You’re the Cream in My Coffee
- You’re My Everything
- That Old Black Magic
- Deep Purple
- Love Letters in the Sand
- Over the Rainbow
- The Moon Was Yellow
- Blue Moon
- Red Wing
Successful big band leaders seem to fit into
two categories, very strong willed and determined men who know
exactly what they wanted from the band and are prepared to get
‘without taking prisoners’. In this category were Benny Goodman,
Buddy Rich and Ted Heath. The other category is really nice men
who cajole their musicians to give of their best. In this category
are Woody Herman, Les Brown and Maynard Ferguson, all attempts
at a middle path seem to be doomed to failure!
Les Brown’s bands were precise, with very good
dynamics and excellent intonation in all sections. The band also
had some excellent jazz soloists, although the solo passages are
always short. In a lot of ways it was like an American version
of the Ted Heath band. The cover note does not tell us who the
arrangers were, but all the arrangements are very polished and
bring out the best of both section work and soloists. The rhythm
section swings along nicely without ever being overpowering and
the guitar of
Tony Rizzi is only heard where the arrangement
demands it; he plays his solos very well, but does not dominate.
Jack Sperling is a very tasteful drummer and he combines well
with the remainder of the rhythm section.
The balance is a bit strange where the brass is concerned, I
am sure the trumpet section would have sounded even better than
what we can hear on the record, Wes Hensel is a fine lead trumpet
player. As I mentioned in the introduction the tenor sax playing
of Dave Pell is a delight throughout, whether he is playing the
tenor lead parts or soloing, he produces a distinctive and pleasant
Jimmy was of course the brother of trombone playing
Tommy, at times they ran a band together but mostly due to their
totally different personalities, they went their own way. It is
curious that both were trumpet players in their early days as
professional musicians and there are quite a few recordings of
them in that role.
- Flight of the Jitterbug
- Fools Rush In
- I’m Steppin’ Out with a Memory Tonight
- Let There Be love
- Blue Lou
- Blueberry Hill
- Moonlight On the River
- All This and Heaven Too
- The Nearness of You
- While the Music Plays on
- Only a Rose.
Vocals on this album are by Helen O’Connell and
Bob Eberly. The sleeve gives no indication of the date when these
recordings were made, but my guess would be 1935-36, unfortunately
the passage of time has not been kind to them. The musicianship
is fine, but it sounds very dated and these tracks have suffered
more in this way then any other in the collection.
This CD will only appeal to out and out fans
of 1930’s dance music.
This is another album that has got into the wrong
collection; there is not a big band in sight! As before, this
should not detract from the listeners enjoyment of some excellent
early be-bop recorded between 1947 and 1949.
- Bebop Romp
- Fats Blows
- The Skunk
- Sid’s Delight
- The Chase
- The Squirrel;
- Our Delight
- The Tadd Walk
- Bouncing with Bud
- Dance of the Infidels
- Barry’s Bop
Theodore ‘Fats’ Navarro (1923-1950) was during
his short life the equal of any trumpet player on the scene at
the time, including Dizzy. He had an amazing ability when improvising
to think in terms of very long lines and link them to even longer
pages. In his time he really had no equal in this skill and it
wasn’t until Clifford Brown came along it was heard again. Unfortunately
Navarro had a heroin addiction, which lowered his resistance to
Tuberculosis, which killed him aged 26.
These short tracks, recorded for the 78-RPM media
of the day, show us just what he was capable of and it certainly
was plenty. On tracks 1&2 he is in the company of Charlie
Rouse an excellent tenor player, who in later life worked regularly
with Monk. Track 3 has him playing with Howard McGee another exciting
trumpet player. I liked track 8 with a front line of Ernie Hanry-Alto
and Charlie Rouse-Tenor, even though the studio balance is less
than perfect, there is a real feeling that something good is happening
and we are included. The same line up plays on tracks 9,10and11
with the same result.
On track 13 & 14 we hear Fats with a very
young Sony Rollins on tenor. Fats and Sony were made for each
other, young musicians, well ahead of their time, what a great
pity that Fats did not live long enough to become as ‘world famous’
as Rollins has done. He had all the ability necessary to do it.
These tracks are essential listening for all
jazz fans; particularly anyone interested in the roots of bebop.
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