Sy Oliver

1945-1949

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Sy Oliver's main contributions to jazz history were his arrangements in the 1930s for Jimmie Lunceford and during the first half of the '40s for Tommy Dorsey. In 1947, he had a big band that recorded four sessions for MGM but quickly flopped, lacking its own musical personality and being born at a time when big bands were breaking up. This interesting CD is full of rare material. Oliver sings "Seventh Avenue" on a V-Disc from 1945, leads his big band on all 16 of its recordings from 1947, and heads a couple studio bands for sessions in 1949. Overall, Oliver has vocals on ten of the 23 numbers and also features singers Henry Wells, Tommy Roberts, Joe Bailey, Bobby Marshall, Charles McCormick, and the Aristokats. Although some of the sidemen are well-known swing veterans, in general they are confined to ensembles, with only a few of the tunes being worthwhile instrumentals. The music is enjoyable enough but one can easily understand why the Sy Oliver Orchestra never caught on.

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