Charlie Barnet's Orchestra was sometimes labeled the blackest white band from the golden years of swing, and MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM proves that the Barnet outfit was certainly on par with the Ellington and Basie big bands in terms of technical skill, if not in innovation. The band is still regarded by many jazz musicians, aficionados and scholars as one of the finest of its generation.
The great Billy May was writing for the band during this era, and performances by vocalist Lena Horne and trumpeter Bobby Burnet make these tunes really swing. Charlie Barnet's chief influence was Duke Ellington, and on this CD, we hear smart versions of "The Sargeant Was Shy," "Birmingham Breakdown," and the famous "Ring Dem Bells." In addition, the title track (Barnet's theme song) is notable for its energy and all round inspired ensemble work.