Tommy Dorsey

The V-Disc Recordings

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This three-CD set, containing approximately 150 minutes of music, is typical of the V-Disc series on Collectors' Choice. The sound is generally clean if unexceptional, with a handful of rough patches. And, as usual, there is no recording date information whatsoever, much less personnel lists. The material is typical Dorsey, ranging from sweet to swing -- "Melody in A," dating from 1944 (the year Dorsey did most of his exclusive V-Disc sessions) features the string section that he inherited from Artie Shaw at its most lush (complete with harp glissandos), in an arrangement by David Rose, while numbers like "Chicago" (which features the strings in a bouncier mode), "Boogie Woogie," and "Deep River" (whose four-minute running time represents one of the advantages of V-Discs) present the more swinging side of Dorsey's output. The latter song boasts some beautiful solos by Joe Bushkin (piano), Don Lodice (tenor saxophone), Johnny Mince (clarinet), and Ziggy Elman (trumpet), not to mention Tommy Dorsey himself. This collection is a reminder that whether they were playing pop, jazz, or dance music, Dorsey's band could put a number over in beautifully articulated style -- "Swanee River" may not be the most exciting rendition of the Stephen Foster piece ever cut, but the trumpet and Dorsey's own trombone will make most listeners melt for their duration, and it's hard to quibble with the bouncy, engaging silliness of "Dipsy Doodle" (sung by Edythe Wright), which swings pretty well, too. It should be noted, however, that "Dipsy Doodle," "Milenberg Joys," "Without a Song" (sung by Frank Sinatra) and a dozen other of the early V-Disc sides here were simply reissues of standard RCA recordings of the late 1930s. It was only in 1943 that the band began cutting exclusive V-Disc sessions, and those are the truly valuable parts of this set -- Gene Krupa pounding away on the drums for "Not So Quietly, Please" and Buddy Rich's playing on "Three Little Words." There are also moments where the string playing, from the violins and the harps, is so beautifully integrated with the band's core, that it's impossible not to ache on hearing it, regardless of how one feels about the pop sides -- Dorsey's trombone solo on the David Rose-arranged "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is awe-inspiring in its control, and the string and harp accompaniment wraps itself around the band into a seamless whole that will make your jaw drop. Some of the passages in individual songs, such as the brassy "Three Little Words," come off a bit ragged. And better notes would have been a help, but purely as a musical experience without a lot of high technical expectations, the material is just short of priceless.

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