Charlie Barnet led a dance band that sometimes swung during the mid-'30s, and a swing band with close connections to the jazz world during the late '30s and early '40s. Make Believe Ballroom was the name of a popular radio program for which Barnet recorded the theme song, a pleasant number by Paul Denniker with words by Andy Razaf. Make Believe Ballroom: 1935-1939 is a compilation that was issued on the Giants of Jazz label in 1998, and should not be confused with Make Believe Ballroom: 1936-1941, which was released by Aerospace Records in 1995. It just so happens that this Giants of Jazz disc contains rare material recorded in May and November 1938, a period during which Barnet made no commercially available recordings. Those who love this band enough to have acquired Barnet's many installments in the Classics Chronological Series are in for a real treat, as tracks one through 15 fill the gap in Classics 1194, a volume that lived up to its title 1937-1939 by containing nothing whatsoever from the year 1938. Take a deep breath, dive in, and enjoy these two-dozen excellent big-band swing recordings. There are several Ellington tunes, a lot of Barnet originals, and a couple of pleasant surprises like Fats Waller's "Blue Turning Grey Over You" and Slim Gaillard's "Jump Session." The last two titles, "Nagasaki" and "Growlin'," were recorded in January 1935, just as Fats Waller, Jimmie Lunceford, Earl Hines, and Duke Ellington were initiating tremors that sent ripples of inspiration across the nation and were strongly felt throughout the U.K. and mainland Europe. Truly one of the great entries in the Giants of Jazz catalog, this one is enthusiastically recommended.
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