Bunny Berigan / Bunny Berigan & His Orchestra

The Bunny Berigan & His Orchestra (1937-1938)

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Having made a name for himself in the bands of Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, trumpeter Bunny Berigan set out on his own in 1937. Heading up a big band that included such shifting personnel as drummer Buddy Rich, tenor saxophonist George Auld, trumpeter/arranger Ray Conniff, and pianist Joe Bushkin, Berigan blazed brightly and briefly, until alcoholism and a lack of discipline forced him to break up his band in 1939. This Classics disc features tracks cut before things went south. Covering the years 1937-1938, the 20 sides find Berigan and company in their prime, with sparkling solos coming from Berigan, Auld, Conniff, and Bushkin. While the disc sags a bit with some requisite filler by vocalist Ruth Gaylor, instrumental highlights like "Wacky Dust" (a possible cocaine-reference here?), Ellington's "Azure," and Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby" ensure this batch of mostly solid swingers stays fresh.

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