Sammy Kaye

Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye [Columbia]

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Sammy Kaye charted hit records from the 1930s right into the early '60s, and kept working decades beyond that, but the period in which he was most prominent -- and the greatest vexation to jazz aficionados, who felt he demeaned big bands as one of the sweetest of the "sweet" bandleaders -- was the '40s, for Kaye continued to thrive even as the audience for big-band jazz gradually fell away. That's the period covered on this, probably the best single Sammy Kaye collection on the market. There are 21 songs, every one of them a chart hit, dating from March of 1941 through August of 1950, all but one of them from the RCA Victor-BMG library (only "Harbor Lights," from 1950, is from Columbia). His first hit, "Swing and Sway," which he recorded for Vocalion, isn't here, but that doesn't mean there's much lacking -- the songs ("Daddy," "Penny Serenade," "Sooner or Later," "I'm a Big Girl Now," "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," etc.) are among his most familiar and enduring hits, all but two of the 21 having made the Top Ten, and represent his style very well, even the Kaye-announced intro to "I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen." A lot of this stuff is pretty sentimental ("The Old Lamp-Lighter," etc.), but the melodies and singing are so lush (especially Billy Williams' singing) that it's hard to hate this stuff, even if you sort of wish the band would swing a bit, if only to live up to half of Kaye's signature tune. The sound is superb, the remastering having cleaned up virtually any harshness or noise on the 50-year-old masters and brought out details and a warmth that's often lacking in masters from this era. The vocalists represented here -- all in excellent form as pop singers -- are Don Cornell, Betty Barclay, Billy Williams, Nancy Norman, and future religious cult leader Tony Alamo (on "Harbor Lights" and "The Four Winds and the Seven Seas").

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