Various Artists

In The Mood With: Best of the Big Band Era 1938

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Although swing and big bands had been around since the '20s, their peak was in the mid-'30s, and 1938 was one of big-band jazz's stellar years. In the Mood With: Best of the Big Band Era 1938 does a good job of collecting some of the highlights of swing -- both vocal and instrumental, with a few obscurities thrown in for good measure. The biggest breakout hit -- and star debut -- of the year, "Begin the Beguine," by clarinet player and bandleader Artie Shaw, is here, of course, as are well-known hits from Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan, and Guy Lombardo. But what gives it a fine balance are the less well-known versions like Shep Fields' accordion-led rendition of the oft-heard "Thanks for the Memory," and solid vocal performances from nearly forgotten stars Edythe Wright and Martha Tilton. No single disc can do justice to one of the peak years of the swing era, but this comes close and is an excellent primer.

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