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Starburst - Gene Krupa and His Big Band





Theme: Starburst and Introduction†
Blue Moon*
Swinging on a Star (featuring Lillian Lane and the Escorts)*
Drum Boogie*
Out of Nowhere**
It’s up to You*
Ain’t Nowhere††
These Foolish Things*
Hodge Podge**
I Hear You Screamin’+
Out You Go*
Sweet Lorraine*
Linger a While*
All by Myself‡
The Man I love**
Mulligan Stew‡‡
It Happened in Monterey ≠
Don’t Be that Way ≠≠
*rec. early 1945, locations unknown
**rec. January 1946, New York City
+ rec. March 1946, The Meadowbrook Gardens, Culver City, California
rec. Hotel Astor Roof, New York City, date unknown
†† rec. circa May 1946, New York City
rec. May 1946, location unknown
‡‡ rec. circa May 1949, location unknown
rec. 13 November 1944, Chicago
≠≠ rec. 15 August 1945, Hotel Astor Roof, New York City


For Krupa fans, we have here an assortment of tunes recorded for radio broadcast, of various sessions and line-ups, only a few of the venues are known, based on what the liner notes include. The sound quality is really quite good, considering the age of the recordings and the wide variety of venues and recording conditions. Finding out just really what was recorded where and when is rather confusing, as the liner notes bafflingly start at track 19, move on to track 9, and so on; a chronological arrangement, though the disc itself is not organized chronologically. The uncredited author of the liner notes states he organized the order in this way to "allow the listener to appreciate the development of this fine orchestra," which is all well and good, but the presentation could be less confusing. We have here Krupa’s band at its biggest, in its late 1940s line-up, with recordings ranging from1944 to 1949, just before the break-up of the full orchestra in 1950.

Some hits are here — we have Drum Boogie, but it is nowhere near the length or, to these ears, the intensity, of the 9-minute Jazz at the Philharmonic performance in 1952 with Buddy Rich. The drum presence is not as bright in the 1945 performance, the piano more pronounced — a more typically "boogie woogie" arrangement, with the walking octaves in the left hand of the piano. With a nod to Hoagy Carmichael we have "Indiana," a treatment of "Back Home Again in Indiana" with some extended play on "On the Banks of the Wabash." The brass here has sass, and the 1946 recording has depth enough to hear the various parts with a good degree of separation. Lillian Lane and the Escorts give a fun close-harmony swing-though of "Swinging on a Star" with added (uncredited) strings. The trumpet work on "The Man I Love," which at first was a bit overloud, turns into a wonderful performance, well worth a listen. We also have some songs that aren’t the usual suspects. One of the standouts is "Ain’t Nowhere" with Carolyn Grey singing. It’s a sophisticatedly slinky arrangement, done in part by Gerry Milligan. The song’s sentiment of "without a guy a gal’s nowhere" may be rather out of date, but this track has been in pretty regular rotation here.

Not all of the arrangements work. This disc includes the squarest, most wooden performance of "Summertime" I’ve heard. The saxophone work is great, but the vocalist - uncredited in the liner notes, but my computer media player indicates that it is Buddy Stewart - sinks the whole endeavour. As a whole, the disc is enjoyable listening,("Summertime" aside), and the playing here shows a loose and comfortable band in its prime years. Gene isn’t featured terribly prominently on these tracks, which may disappoint those out for full-on drum mayhem, but on the plus side, we have a generally band-forward disc that certainly has some nice moments. Recommended for fans of Krupa and that big 1940s sound.

David Blomenberg
A gathering of various radio broadcasts — a varied collection with some lesser-played tunes. ... see Full Review


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