WHITEMAN, Paul: Paul Whiteman and His Dance Band (Bing Crosby/ David Lennick/ Paul Whiteman/ Paul Whiteman Dance Band) (Naxos: 8.120511)
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PAUL WHITEMAN and his DANCE BAND Vol. l
Whether viewed as a pioneer of theultra-modern phenomenon "symphonic jazz" or as a purveyor of thelatest in popular dance-music, "Pops" Whiteman was nothing if notfirst and foremost a showman, and if the tag "King of Jazz" wasmisapplied, a more apt title might have been "King of Show", asresearch into his various movies (beginning with King of Jazz in 1930, ending with The Fabulous Dorseys in 1947) will bear out. And with thebulk of their recordings pre-dating their appearance in the earlier of thosetwo screen-musical landmarks, the Rhythm Boys were for some years an integralingredient of the Whiteman Show.
Born in Denver, Colorado on 28th March, 1890,Paul Whiteman was brought up along classical lines. Trained in violin from theage of seven by his violinist and school music supervisor father WilberforceJ., he was already used to the procedures of stage presentation when, atsixteen, he played first viola and violin in the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
From 1911 he played in the Minetti String Quartet and from 1915 in the SanFrancisco People's Orchestra. Paul's earliest exposure to jazz reputedly came ayear later at a Barbary Coast dance-hall, and even during World War I theformal "classical" framework continued to be imposed upon him whileas a US Navy bandmaster he conducted a 57-piece orchestra at Bear Island,California.
When war was over, however, Whiteman frontedvarious nine-piece dance-bands at fashionable venues, first in San Francisco,then in Alexandria (where he swiftly became the idol of the movie colony) andfinally in Atlantic City where, in 1920, at the Ambassador Hotel, he wasalready testing his own classically-structured jazz creations. He was"discovered" there by the Victor Records A & R man Calvin G.
Childs and the rest, as they say, was history. His first recordings (coupling"Whispering" and "The Japanese Sandman" sold around twomillion copies by 1922. A seemingly endless stream of hits followed and, fromthe outset, Whiteman featured high-calibre jazz players who sooner or laterachieved star status in their own right - the likes of Joe Venuti, JackTeagarden, Eddie Tang, Frankie Trumbauer, Johnny Mercer, the Dorseys, HoagyCarmichael and his friend the brilliant Iowa-born cornet virtuoso Leon BixBeiderbecke (1903-1931). Also an accomplished pianist and composer, theredoubtable Beiderbecke's early death contributed in no small measure to hislegendary stature. By 1923 a prominent member of the Wolverines, Bix played inTrumbauer's outfit in Chicago from 1925 before joining the Whiteman orchestrain 1927, where he remained until his premature demise from alcohol abuse.
Present here on several tracks, he is most prominently heard on \Dardanella" (a1928 electrical revival of the 1919 Felix Bernard and Johnny S Blackinstrumental which in 1920 provided a 13-week US No. 1 for Whiteman's rivals,the Ben Selvin Orchestra) and "Changes" (here he complements the Rhythm Boys'vocal).
Already by October 1920 the New York-residentWhiteman orchestra was a fixture at Broadway's prestigious Palais de Dance,their Broadway stints in George White'sScandals (1922 edition) and Ziegfeld'sFollies (1923) firmly establishing his name as a showman. Whereas atthis stage instrumentalists shone out from the line-up, vocal refrainers indance-bands were still few and far between. However, the coming of radio andthe Charleston Era changed all that and solo crooners - or close harmony andscat ensembles (Crosby and the Rhythm Boys and larger Whiteman vocal ensemblesare prime examples) - became fashionable adjuncts to all major danceorchestras, with the vocalists - rather than vocal "stars" -invariably instrumentalists from the band.
Born in Spokane, Washington, on 2nd May, 1903,even as a lad Harry Lillis Crosby displayed strong musical inclinations. Weanedon the records of McCormack and Caruso, jazz also fascinated him and he was akeen drummer at school long before teaming at Washington's Gonzaga Universitywith his fellow law-student (and fellow Spokanian) friend Al Rinker (b. 1907).
Intent on a musical career, with an introduction from Rinker's sister MildredBailey, Al and Bing were hired as a vocal duo by Whiteman in 1926 and soonafterwards -with pianist-songwriter Harry Barris (1905-1962) - they formed thefashionable and influential Rhythm Boys trio within the Whiteman Orchestra.
Whiteman repertoire of the late 1920s (withand without vocal contributions from Bing, The Rhythm Boys and other -augmented - crooning groups) covered a wide and disparate range. Alongside suchad hoc Barris-Crosby collaborations as "Mississippi Mud" and "From Monday On",Harry Richman's "Muddy Water" and Ruth Etting's "Wistful And Blue" and suchauthentic Negro songs as Jessie Deppen's "Oh, Miss Hannah!" and Will Marion Cook's"I'm Coming, Virginia", we find abroad cross-section of the contemporary fruitsof Tin Pan Alley. Some of these, thanks to subsequent jazz arrangements andfrequent revivals down the years, still have currency, including (from Broadwayshows) "You Took Advantage Of Me" (Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart, from Present Anns, 1928), "Ol' Man River"(Jerome Kern, from Show Boat, 1927,heard here in a US No.1 Crosby-Whiteman version), "Makin' Whoopee" (title-songof the 1927 Gus Kahn-Walter Donaldson revue Whoopee.!),I'm In Love Again (a Cole Porter number first heard in Greenwich Village Follies Of 1924) and(from pioneering 1929 film?é?¡-musicals) "I'm A Dreamer, Aren't We All?" (RayHenderson: from Sunny Side up) and "Louise" (a Maurice Chevaliersignature-tune by Richard A. Whiting first heard in Innocents Of Paris).
Peter Dempsey, 2000