Hal Kemp


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This out of print LP compiles recordings that Hal Kemp's orchestra made from 1934 to 1940, mostly for RCA Victor. Having its origins at the University of North Carolina, Kemp's orchestra started its days as a jazz band. After catching the attention of no one (except glee club meister Fred Waring who gave it financial support), Kemp gave up on jazz to put together one of the finest sweet bands of the times. He had some success with this new format twice being voted Best Sweet Band by Metronome magazine readers who were attracted by its smooth, sophisticated sound. The recognizable clipped muted sounds and unison clarinet notes (often blown through megaphones) were created by arrangers like future musical director for Bing Crosby's radio show and bandleader to be John Scott Trotter and Buddy Morrow. Kemp's band was the incubator for Bunny Berigan and provided the platform for good vocalists. There was Skinnay Ennis, who was to provide two of the band's biggest hits, "Got a Date With an Angel" and "Lamplighter Serenade." Ennis is on this album with "Johnny One Note." Janet Blair, who was to achieve some success in the movies, was Kemp's girl singer. Two of her recordings with the band are on this album, as are vocal offerings by Bob Allen and Nan Wynn. While the album concentrates on the smooth style of Kemp's playing, there are vestiges of his jazz days with "hot" numbers like "Powerhouse" and "Hoi Polloi." A couple of Benny Carter tunes, "Melancholy Lullaby" and "Blue Moonlight," get sympathetic readings.

Kemp met an untimely death in December of 1940 in a car accident. He was reorganizing his band after the loss of key personnel, including Ennis and his novelty singer and clarinet player Saxie Dowell. After unsuccessful attempts by members to keep the band going, it faded from history remembered through a handful of recordings.

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