Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra


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The fourth installment in the Classics Tommy Dorsey chronology opens with the Dorsey Orchestra's last seven recordings of 1936. Fortified with trumpeter Max Kaminsky, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman, guitarist Carmen Mastren, and master percussionist Dave Tough, this was a particularly fine band. Their instrumental rendition of Fats Waller's "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now" is one of Dorsey's all-time greatest recorded achievements. At her best, Edythe Wright sang a bit like Lee Wiley, and therefore her voice might grow on you if you sit still for it. This is more than can be said for either Jack Leonard or the goofy trio billed as the Three Esquires. Beginning on January 7, 1937, Dorsey hit the jackpot when he hired trumpeter Bunny Berigan, a man who had spent most of the first half of the 1930s backing up pop vocalists like Chick Bullock. The pleasant instrumentals on this disc all went over well with the record-buying public. Will Hudson's "Mr. Ghost Goes to Town" and something called "Who'll Buy My Violets?" are catchy tunes that benefit from the absence of vocalists. "Melody in F" receives a bouncy treatment that would certainly have startled its composer, Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Song of India" was a smash hit for Dorsey, who was now commercially clambering to the top of the heap. Yet his really big hit of 1937 was gleaned not from classical Russian composers but was filched from musicians of color in Philadelphia. Dorsey's famous version of Irving Berlin's "Marie" was based on a group vocal arrangement that originated in the mind of a banjoist, guitarist, vocalist, and arranger by the name of Steve Washington, a remarkable individual who had risen to prominence in the jazz world as a member of the Washboard Rhythm Kings. Washington died of pneumonia in January 1936. A few months later his arrangement of "Marie" was being performed at Nixon's Grand Theater in Philadelphia by the Sunset Royal Serenaders, an Afro-American jazz orchestra led at that time by trombonist Doc Wheeler. Dorsey was in the audience one night. He memorized the routine and used it in January 1937 to make a record that ended up earning him enormous quantities of money. This sort of racially informed cultural larceny would soon occur again as Glenn Miller scored his all-time biggest cash money hit by swiping "In the Mood" from Edgar Hayes.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:19
2 2:28
3 2:24
4 2:45
5 2:44
6 2:43
7 2:07
8 2:27
9 3:06
10 3:14
11 2:40
12 3:11
13 2:39
14 2:27
15 2:52
16 3:02
17 3:04
18 3:14
19 3:06
20 3:16
21 2:17
blue highlight denotes track pick