Charlie Barnet

1940, Vol. 2

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Volume seven in the complete Classics Charlie Barnet chronology contains what appear to be all of the records he made for Victor's budget-priced Bluebird series between May 8 and September 17, 1940. Barnet, a rich kid from New York, began making records with his big band in 1933, gradually outgrowing the conventions of polite pop music and mastering the soprano, alto and tenor saxophones while following in the footsteps of great Afro-American bandleaders like Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford and Count Basie. When the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles burned down on October 2, 1939, all of the Barnet orchestra's instruments and sheet music were completely incinerated. Barnet was able to borrow arrangements from Basie and Benny Goodman; trumpeter Billy May also conveniently produced charts and original compositions for the band, including the expansive and very impressionistic six-and-a-half minute "Wings over Manhattan." Vocalists heard on this compilation are Mary Ann McCall, Larry Taylor and Harriet Clark. Instrumental gems include "No Name Jive"; Ellington's "Rockin' in Rhythm," "The Sergeant Was Shy" and "Ring Dem Bells"; a Harlan Leonard tune called "Southern Fried" (also known as "Hairy Joe Jump") and the original rendition of the famous "Pompton Turnpike." Although "Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga" and Barnet's "The Reverie of a Moax" are runners up for weirdest title, the prize in this category goes to "Wild Mab of the Fish Pond"; the obscure reference might very well have something to do with Percy Bysshe Shelley (and not, hopefully, with his ill-fated wife Harriet Westbrook).

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