Harry James & His Orchestra

1942-1943 Broadcasts with Helen Forrest

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Soundcraft's historical sampler of continuous live broadcast recordings opens with a smooth sales pitch intoned by a suave and presumably well-groomed announcer: "Columbia presents the world's number one trumpeter, Harry James & His Musicmakers! From the roof of the Hotel Astor, overlooking Times Square in New York City, CBS is bringing you the music of Harry James, his trumpet, and his orchestra. Melodies of the moment in rhythm, brass, woodwind, and strings, styled by Harry James. Vocals are by Helen Forrest and Johnny McAfee, with an occasional sax specialty by Corky Corcoran and of course solos by the leader who plays the tremendous trumpet -- Harry James!" If the introduction to this show (broadcast August 21,1942) sounds a lot like a wartime cigarette advertisement, the even more heavily scripted Chesterfield shows (dated July and September 1943) are the real McCoy. James engages in friendly banter with the often less-than-subtle announcers and introduces some of his own tunes with intelligence and sincerity. He dedicates "Velvet Moon" (here given its "premiere performance") to all soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, war workers, and anyone who was "on edge" and in need of relaxation. The lushness of the instrumentation and the sophisticated arrangements certainly do their part as the mood music settles in to comfort the listeners during this difficult stage of the global conflict. This is especially true of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" (attributed during the spoken introduction only to Duke Ellington). James also incorporates a plug for war bonds into an announcement that his Chesterfield Musicmakers defeated Freddy Martin's All Stars in a baseball bond drive competition. The third broadcast roars to a halt with a "smoking" rendition of Edgar Sampson's "Blue Lou." This disc amends and fits seamlessly into the Harry James "studio recordings" chronology as presented by the Classics reissue label.

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