Harry James

Dance Parade/Your Dance Date

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This discount-priced CD reissue combines the tracks from two 10" Harry James LPs originally released in 1950. The titles are similar, but the music illustrates the way James changed his approach over the years, since one album was a compilation of early recordings and the other was newly recorded. Dance Parade gathered together eight hot instrumentals James had cut between 1939 and 1942, a period when he had recently emerged from Benny Goodman's band and was trying to succeed with a hot jazz style. The four tracks -- all of them James originals -- that made up the first side and were all recorded in 1939 ("Flash," "Back Beat Boogie," "Feet Draggin' Blues," and "Cross Country Jump") especially show what the bandleader was trying to do just after he had organized his group. Unfortunately, he was not able to succeed in this style, and as early as 1941 he had moved toward the notoriously schmaltzy ballad style that would make him one of the most popular bandleaders of the '40s. Nevertheless, the eight Dance Parade tracks show what might have been. The seven Your Dance Date tracks that follow have their hot moments, but this is much more the later James, with ballads like "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" reminding you of the vibrato-laden playing on "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)." Still, since so many of the James reissues are dominated by vocal songs and material even more pop-oriented than this, it's great to have an all-instrumental James CD that covers more than a decade of his band's playing. From a jazz fan's point of view, this is much more welcome than yet another album full of songs like "I Don't Want to Walk Without You."

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