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Crotchet

Gene Krupa Vol. 2.

Let Me Off Uptown

Original Recordings 1939-1945.

Naxos Jazz Legends, 8.120749

 

1. Feelin’ Fancy
2. Manhattan Transfer
3. I Like to Recognise the Tune
4. Tuxedo Junction
5. How ‘Bout That Mess?
6. Hamtramck
7. Alreet
8. Georgia on My Mind
9. Drum Boogie
10. Let Me Off Uptown
11. After You’ve Gone
12. The Walls Keep Talking
13. That’s What You Think
14. Knock Me a Kiss
15. Massachusetts
16. Leave us Leap
17. Opus No. One
18. Yesterdays
19. Boogie Blues
20. Lover

Tracks 1, 2 and 4: Shorty Sherock, Corky Cornelius, Torg Halten
(trumpet); Floyd O’ Brien, Sid Brantley, Al Jordan (trombones); Clint
Neagley (alto); Bob Snyder (alto, baritone); Sam Musiker (tenor,
clarinet); Tony D’Amore (piano); Ray Biondi (guitar); Biddy Bastien
(bass); Gene Krupa (drums)

Track 3: Nate Kazebier, Corky Cornelius, Torg Halten (trumpets); Floyd
O’Brien, Al Sherman, Rodney Ogle (trombones); Clint Neagley, Mascagni
Ruffo (alto); Sam Donahue (tenor); Sam Musiker (tenor, clarinet); Milt
Raskin (piano); Ray Biondi (guitar); Biddy Bastien (bass); Irene Daye
(vocals); Gene Krupa (drums)

Tracks 5 and 6: Corky Cornelius, Torg Halten, Rudy Novak, Shorty
Sherock (trumpets); Al Jordan, Jay Keliher, Babe Wagner (trombones);
Clint Neagley (alto); Bob Snyder (alto); Sam Musiker (tenor); Walter
Bates (tenor); Tony D’Amore (piano); Ray Biondi (guitar); Biddy Bastien
(bass); Irene Daye (vocals); Gene Krupa (drums)

Tracks 7, 8 and 9: Norman Murphy, Torg Halten, Graham Young, Shorty
Sherock (trumpet); Pat Viradano, Jay Keliher, Babe Wagner (trombones);
Clint Neagley, Musky Ruffo (altos); Walter Bates (tenor); Sam Musiker
(tenor, clarinet); Bob Kitsis (piano); Anita O’ Day (vocals); Gene
Krupa (drums)

Tracks 10 and 11: Graham Young, Torg Halten, Norman Murphy (trumpets);
Roy Eldridge (trumpet, vocals on track 10); John Grassi, Jay Keliher,
Babe Wagner (trombones); Mascagni Ruffo, Clint Neagley (alto); Sam
Musiker, Walter Bates (tenor); Bob Kitsis (piano); Ray Biondi (guitar);
Biddy Bastien (bass); Anita O’Day (vocals on track 10); Gene Krupa
(drums)

Track 12: Graham Young, Torg Halten, Norman Murphy (trumpets); Roy
Eldrige (trumpets, vocals); John Grassi, Jay Keliher, Babe Wagner
(trombones); Mascagni Ruffo, Sam Listengart, Jimmy Migliori (altos);
Sam Musiker (tenor, clarinet); Walter Bates (tenor); Milt Raskin
(piano); Ray Biondi (guitar); Eddie Mihelich (bass); Anita O’Day
(vocals); Gene Krupa (drums)

Track 13: Roy Eldridge, Mickey Mangano, Norman Murphy, Al Beck
(trumpets); John Grassi, Jay Kehiler, Babe Wagner (trombones); Benny
Feman, Rex Kittig, Jimmy Migliori (altos); Sam Musiker (tenor,
clarinet); Don Brassfield (tenor); Joe Springer (piano); Roy Biondi
(guitar); Eddie Mihelich (bass); Anita O’Day (vocals); Gene Krupa
(drums)

Track 14: Roy Eldridge (trumpet, vocals); Mickey Mangano, Norman
Murphy, Al Beck (trumpets); John Grassi, Joe Conigliaro, Babe Wagner
(trombones); Benny Feman, Rex Kittig, Jimmy Migliori (altos); Sam
Musiker (tenor,clarinet); Don Brassfield (tenor); Joe Springer (piano);
Ray Biondi (guitar); Eddie Mihelich (bass); Gene Krupa (drums)

Track 15: Roy Eldridge, Mickey Mangano, Norman Murphy, Al Beck
(trumpets); John Grassi, Tommy Pederson, Babe Wagner (trombones); Benny
Feman, Rex Kittig (altos); Jimmy Migliori, Don Brassfield (tenors); Sam
Musiker (alto, clarinet); Rex Kittig (baritone); Joe Springer (piano);
Teddy Walters (guitar); Eddie Mihelich (bass); Anita O’Day (vocals);
Gene Krupa (drums)

Track 16: Tony Russo, Joe Triscari, Don Fagerquist, Bill Conrad
(trumpets); Leon Cox, Tommy Pederson, Bill Culley (trombones); Fran
Antonelli (alto); Murray Williams (clarinet, alto); Charlie Ventura,
Andy Pino (tenors); Stuart Olson (baritone); Teddy Napoleon (piano);
Edward Vance (guitar); Clyde Newcombe (bass); Gene Krupa (drums); 5
violins, 2 violas, 1 cello

Track 17 and 19: Tony Russo, Joe Triscari, Don Fagerquist, Vince Hughes
(trumpets); Leon Cox, Tommy Tommy Pederson, Bill Culley (trombones);
Johnny Bothwell (alto); Adrian Tei (clarinet, alto); Charlie Ventura,
Charlie Kennedy (tenors); Stuart Olson (baritone); Teddy Napoleon
(piano); Edward Vance (guitar); Irv Lang (bass); Anita O’Day (vocals);
Gene Krupa, Joe Dale (drums)

Tracks 18 and 20: Don Fagerquist, Pinky Savitt, Vince Hughes, Tony
Russo (trumpets); Leon Cox, Dick Taylor, Nick Gaglio (trombones); Harry
Terrill, Charlie Kennedy (altos); Charlie Ventura, Buddy Wise (tenors);
Joe Koch (baritone); Teddy Napoleon (piano); Frank Worrell (guitar);
Irv Lang (bass); Gene Krupa, Joe Dale (drums)

Classically trained drummer, Gene Krupa, emerged on the jazz scene in 1925, working with the bands of Al Gale, Joe Kayser, Leo Shukin and Thelma Terry as well as the Benson Orchestra of Chicago and the Seattle Harmony kings. After moving to New York in 1929, he played with Red Nichols’ Five Pennies and became a regular studio musician, playing dance music on radio and records. This was a lucrative occupation that saw him comfortably through the depression, but Krupa longed to return to jazz. His chance finally came in 1934 when he was hired as the drummer in the Benny Goodman Orchestra. But after the famous Carnegie Hall concert of January 1938, an argument with Goodman resulted in Krupa going out on his own and forming a big band. Let Me Off Uptown traces the distinctive development of this band during its most productive period: 1939-1945.

The collection kicks off with ‘Feelin’ Fancy’, a simple, swinging twelve bar blues tune arranged by Elton Hill. Krupa’s role at this stage is minimal, providing a steady and consistent beat, as well as couple of solo interludes, but hardly straying in to complex territory or stamping his mark as leader of the group. Both here and on ‘Manhattan Transfer’ (the track that follows), in fact, it is Shorty Sherock who impresses most, bringing a distinctive flavour to the tunes with his bold approach to trumpet.

The introduction of vocalist, Irene Daye, then, adds further character to the big band’s sound - as exemplified on ‘I Like to Recognise the Tune’. With a voice that’s filled with charm and warmth, and a talent for phrasing and rhythmic control, Daye injects a burst of energy in to each of the tracks recorded with her. On ‘How ‘Bout that Mess?’, in particular, we witness her effect on the other musicians. Sam Musiker is absorbing on tenor, whilst Sherock’s trumpet wails and screams as he pushes himself on his solo sections. Daye seems to bring out a sharpness in the band, particularly when it comes to Krupa’s drumming - his solo might be a little too steady for those with experimental tastes, but no one could deny that it’s full of life and brimming with a love of the music.

When Irene Daye eventually retired to marry the trumpeter, Corky Cornelius, a twenty one year old Anita O’Day was invited to take her place. A complete unknown when she started with the band, she quickly made a powerful impression and became the most famous new talent to emerge from within the Gene Krupa Orchestra. And listening to her version of ‘Georgia on My Mind’, it’s easy to see why this should be the case - alluring, soulful and technically assured, she handles the classic with an effortless grace, turning it in to something unique. It is the arrival, however, of Roy Eldrige on trumpet that truly brings out the best in O’Day. The vocal interplay between the two at the beginning of ‘Let Me Off Uptown’ is brimming with humour and warmth. And when O’Day tells Eldrige to ‘blow, Roy, blow!’, the trumpeter holds nothing back. As is confirmed in ‘After You’re Gone’, this is talent in its purest form - even in the highest of registers, even at breathtaking pace, Eldrige’s playing is literally flawless and has to be heard to be believed.

In 1943, Krupa was arrested for possession of marijuana (he was framed), which resulted in a jail sentence, bad publicity and the short-term break up of his orchestra. In September of that year, he began his comeback, reuniting with Benny Goodman, then playing with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra for a few months in 1944, all before returning to his roots as band leader and forming another big band. Initially, he made the bizarre decision of hiring a string section to play on the new work, and having his orchestra billed as ‘the band that swings with strings’. ‘Leave us Leap’ was that particular band’s finest recording, tighter than anything that had gone before, and driven forward with pace and energy. Krupa’s playing is notably more impressive than on many of the earlier recordings, his solos more fragmented and challenging, his general approach less restricted by orthodoxy.

Although the string section didn’t last long, the rest of the second Gene Krupa Orchestra remained for roughly another six years. Anita O’Day returned to the band for most of 1945 with just as much charm as on her first time round. On ‘Opus No. One’ - the crowd pleaser of the time - we hear her voice even huskier than ever, gracefully carrying the complex melody with brilliant finesse and control. The addition of Charlie Ventura on tenor also greatly benefited the band. ‘Yesterday’s’, in particular, showcases his talent, highlighting his utterly unique sound - smooth and cool on every note, but with a tone as rich and sonorous as anything else in jazz.

As far as Krupa himself is concerned, the final track, ‘Lover’, highlights his progress. Gone is the safe, steady swinging approach that characterised his earlier days. Gone are the riskless solo passages he seemed, at one point, to be stuck in. Here, he carries the upbeat tempo with assurance, poise and sheer enjoyment, leading to his finest soloing on the collection - complex, thrilling and a delight to listen to.

Jazz might a history of talented drummers, whose virtuosity leaves the listener stunned - and it has to be said, for most, Gene Krupa would not be rated as amongst the finest. But he was the first drummer to become a household name, enchanting audiences with colourful charisma and a dedication to his craft. And, listening to ‘Let Me Off Uptown’, it’s clear that his talents as leader of a big band were absolutely second to none. For anyone interested in jazz of this period, this is wonderful album - charismatic, impressive and filled with catchy melodies, it would make a truly excellent addition to any such listener’s collection.

Robert Gibson



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