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The International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Hot Licks 1944-1946

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Live Broadcasts 1944-46
Submarine SOUNDS OF YESTERYEAR DSOY692 [45.01]

 

 


Bugle Call Rag
Galvanising
Sweet Georgia Brown
Central Avenue Boogie
Lady Be Good
Gin Mill Special
Honeysuckle Rose
Diggin’ Dykes
Slightly Frankie
One O’Clock Jump
Tuxedo Junction
Jump Children
She’s Crazy With The Heat
That Man Of Mine
Vi Vigor
Don’t Get It Twisted

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were an all-woman big band formed in 1937. Originally all-black as well – and coming from Mississippi – it offered a musical avenue for young, poor and orphaned musicians, and any financial proceeds accruing along the way would be ploughed back into Piney Woods Country Life School. The band prospered, moved to Virginia, collected Hispanic and white players along the way and played at some of the biggest venues. Apparently Louis Armstrong tried to sign one of their number, first trumpet Tiny Davis, for his own band – but she stayed put.

One of the strong points of the band was the arrangements. Eddie Durham, of Count Basie’s band, provided some excellent charts and wrote highly effectively for the band. After he left Jessie Stone did likewise. Most of the live broadcast performances here are uncredited to an arranger; only Maurice King, who arranged after Stone left, is noted and then for a couple of lukewarm numbers, one of which was called Diggin’ Dykes and is probably best forgotten in all respects - though I should add in his defence that in D. Antoinette Handy’s biography of the band it’s related that he was a "good teacher" and that the girls in the band liked and admired him.

As I said these are live broadcast recordings from 1944-46, the years before the band’s highly successful European trip. The Hollywood announcer sounds more than usually like a congenital idiot but we must suffer him to hear some fine performances. Tiny Davis was the star of the band without question; her solo on Sweet Georgia Brown is a cracking one and in Anna Mae Wimbourn the band had a good leader-singer whose bluesy vocals are creditable. More than once they do show gauche sides – a frantic and silly Lady Be Good dominated by Pauline Braddy’s Gene Krupa-inspired drum solo (she does the same thing in Honeysuckle Rose.

The Sweethearts are joined by the Armed Forces Radio Orchestra for One O’Clock Jump and by the superior Julian Dash for his own co-composition Tuxedo Junction. Another of the best players, Vi Burnside, takes a standout sax solo on Vi Vigor and there are some good Louis Jordan licks on Don’t Get It Twisted.

I’m not aware that the Sweethearts ever made commercial recordings so these select survivals are to be relished. How good were they? Some were very fine indeed but on this showing, deprived of the arrangements by Durham and Stone, they come across as more of a novelty band than a band with a soul of its own. Still, rare sides. But unfortunately very short playing time.


Jonathan Woolf



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