Will Bradley

Five O'Clock Whistle: 1939-1941

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Formed in 1939, the Will Bradley Orchestra was truly an under-valued aggregation of the big-band era. Although Bradley fronted the band, it was a joint undertaking with Ray McKinley, one of the better big-band drummers of the day as well as an outstanding singer of humorous and novelty tunes. This incarnation of the Bradley/McKinley orchestra was the home for some other excellent musicians who made major contributions to its swing style, such as reedman Peanuts Hucko, pianist Freddie Slack, and guitar player Steve Jordan. The orchestrations were produced by above-average arranger Leonard Whitney. On "Southpaw Serenade," Slack gives notice of the boogie-woogie style the band was to later adopt, a style that produced one of the group's two big hits, "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar." The other was the1940 "Celery Stalks at Midnight." Both of these usually show up on many Best of the Big Band compilations. Bradley and McKinley's forte was hard, driving swing. Even the novelty and humorous tunes like "Old Doc Yak" and "I Get a Kick out of Korn" are based on a solid swing beat. But it's "In a Little Spanish Town" where it all comes together for this group as they render one of the hottest versions of this tune extant. The album also has an appearance by Harry James' wife and fine singer Louise Tobin on "Deed I Do."

McKinley and Bradley parted ways in 1942 over stylistic differences. Bradley kept going for a while replacing McKinley with a very young Shelly Manne. An excellent trombone virtuoso in the Tommy Dorsey vein, except for occasional attempts to make a comeback, Bradley went on to spend most of his remaining career in the trombone section of studio bands working behind singers like Anita O'Day, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. He also did a stint with the Tonight Show Orchestra. McKinley went on to lead the one of the ghost Glenn Miller orchestras. This LP has a good cross section of material these two produced as co-leaders of one of the better swing outfits of the big-band days.

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