Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra


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This is the first volume of the complete studio recordings of Tommy Dorsey as presented in the Classics Chronological Series. The first five tracks, relatively rare and gloriously instrumental, are worth the cost of the entire album. Four of these, recorded for the OKeh label in 1928 and 1929, feature "Tom Dorsey" playing the trumpet in the company of guitarist Eddie Lang with drummer Stan King and either tubaist/string bassist Jimmy Williams or pianist Frank Signorelli. The opening selection, an intimate rendering of Perry Bradford's "It's Right Here for You," has a lovely harmonium accompaniment by Arthur Schutt that mingles marvelously with Lang's reflective improvisations. Dorsey's expressive trumpeting pleasantly reflects the influence of Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke. His next opportunity to record under his own name occurred on Bastille Day in July of 1932. Billed now as "Tommy Dorsey," he presented his own composition, "Three Moods." Backed by a seven-piece "orchestra" that included brother Jimmy Dorsey, trumpeter Manny Klein, and Larry Binyon on tenor sax, the trombonist established a waltz and transformed it into a gavotte and then a swinging foxtrot. Beginning on September 26, 1935, Dorsey, billed for one last time as "Tom," made his first recordings as a leader for the Victor label. The three tunes waxed on that day represent in miniature an accurate condensation of Dorsey's stylistic output over the next few years: an innocent topical pop tune (in this case a rather glib cowboy reverie), a solidly swung traditional jazz stomp (here typified by Artie Matthews' "Weary Blues"), and the occasional dreaded blob of musical cotton candy (epitomized by "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"). Anyone listening through the Tommy Dorsey chronology must contend with pop vocals and sidestep periodic outbursts of brain-numbing corn in order to locate and savor the pockets of real jazz that occur from time to time. If Eddie Condon were alive today he would counsel the truly jazz-inclined to listen for the second-chair trumpeting of Sterling Bose whenever the singers run out of lyrics. Two big-band instrumentals, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Pagan Star," decisively established the Tommy Dorsey sound and provided the public with highly polished background music for all occasions. Several wonderful performances feature the tap dancing of Eleanor Powell, who sounds like she's been cross-dressing as she cheerfully spouts the lyrics to "Got a Bran' New Suit," makes an ass of herself speaking in a fake British accent during "That's Not Cricket," and redeems her dignity to some extent by hoofing her way through "What a Wonderful World." This vintage love song by Arthur Schwartz should not be confused with Bob Thiele's famous philosophical feel-good soliloquy sung by Louis Armstrong near the end of his life.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:11
2 2:50
feat: Tommy Dorsey
feat: Tommy Dorsey
5 3:05
6 3:20
7 3:17
8 3:23
9 3:37
10 2:30
11 2:26
12 3:28
14 2:45
15 3:08
16 3:16
17 3:37
18 3:27
19 3:34
20 3:11
21 2:24
22 3:30
23 2:21
24 3:23
blue highlight denotes track pick