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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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PAUL WHITEMAN

Volume 5: Without a Song

Vocalion CDEA 6193

 

 


1. Get Out and Get Under the Moon
2. Evening Star
3. Last night I Dreamed you Kissed Me
4. Chiquita
5. 'Tain't so, Honey, 'tain't so
6. In the Evening
7. I'd Rather Cry over You
8. I'm on the Crest of a Wave
9. Felix the Cat
10. Georgie Porgie
11. Out o' town Gal
12. Lonesome in the Moonlight
13. How about Me?
14. Just a Sweetheart
15. Lover Come Back to Me
16. Marianne
17. Blue Hawaii
18. Louise
19. I'm in the Seventh Heaven
20. Reaching for Someone (and not finding anyone there)
21. When my Dreams Come True
22. Laughing Marionette
23. S'posin'
24. At Twilight
25. Without a Song

 

The sobriquet "King of Jazz" was always a bit of a misnomer for Paul Whiteman. Granted he hired many jazzmen - notably Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti and Jack Teagarden - and he was the driving force behind George Gershwin composing Rhapsody in Blue and the Concerto in F. But Whiteman was not so much a jazzman as an eclectic admirer of many forms of music, some of which he tried to coagulate in his conception of "symphonic jazz". The best results of this came from the Gershwin compositions and the presence of Bix and his gang in the band from 1927. But the Bix influence lasted for only a couple of golden years, and he died in 1931.

The recordings on this album date from May 1928 to October 1929, when Whiteman had switched from the Victor label to the Columbia company. Although there are flashes of the old jazz influence on his orchestra, many of the tracks could be better categorised as sweet dance music than hot jazz. Bix Beiderbecke's health was already deteriorating at the start of 1929 and another trumpeter had to be brought in to deputise for him. Nonetheless, there are signs of Bix's magic in 'Tain't So, Honey, 'Tain't So (arranged by Bill Challis), which also has a fine vocal by Bing Crosby. Felix the Cat is a novelty tune but it includes some hot playing from Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer. Frankie is interestingly wayward on Reaching for Someone. There is even a brief slice of agile sax in I'm on the Crest of a Wave.

Yet these are oases in a desert of heavily-orchestrated big band and strings. Compared with the brilliant music being produced at the time by Duke Ellington or Fletcher Henderson, these tracks suggest that Paul Whiteman was certainly not the "King of Jazz". Admittedly some of the arrangements are ingenious - particularly those by Bill Challis, such as I'm in the Seventh Heaven, with Bix improvising over the bass sax as it plays the melody. Bing Crosby, with and without the Rhythm Boys, supplies some good vocals, especially on the title-track. Otherwise we are some distance from authentic jazz.

Barry McCanna's sleeve-notes say that "collectors have tended to concentrate on the late twenties Victors, and these Columbia sides have been neglected by comparison". Hearing them, one can well understand why. Incidentally, McCann's notes are careful and detailed, although no personnels are listed. And I can't understand why the tracks are not arranged in chronological order.

Tony Augarde

www.augardebooks.co.uk



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