CROSBY, Bob and BOB CATS: Palesteena

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'Palesteena' Original Recordings 1937

Although upstaged by his elder brother, among crooners thepersonable Bob Crosby had a distinctive timbre and a style of his own, albeithe was never really a jazz singer. More significantly, however, he won world renown as the front-man of oneof the best-organised American swing-bands of the 1930s - a trailblazer in theNew Orleans Revival, it was the one which did most to revitaliseDixieland.  Born George RobertCrosby in Spokane, Washington on 25 August 1913, Bob first made an impressionas a singer during 1933 and 1934 with the Anson Weeks orchestra and famouslydoubled briefly as a vocalist with the Dorsey Brothers' Orchestra (despite thevociferous opposition of Tommy, who rated him a poor second to the great Bing).

Later in 1934 Bob joined Ben Pollack and was with the bandwhen it broke up in California. By the time it opened at the Roseland Ballroomin June 1935, however, the incipient Bob Crosby Orchestra was already takingshape under another figure, Pollack's Russian-born ex-tenor-saxophonist Gilbert'Gil' Rodin (1906-1974).  Theentrepreneurial Rodin was prime mover of the co-operative group affectionatelydubbed 'Pollack's Orphans' and it was he who initially hired (via theRockwell-O'Keefe Agency) the casual, easy-going Bob to front the new band, withsaxophonist Dean Kincaide (b. Houston, Texas, 1911) and bassist-composer BobHaggart (b. New York, 1914) as its forward-looking arrangers.  Rodin would remain the group's leaderand musical director (he was later appointed its president) and was also Bob'spersonal manager, remaining faithful until the organisation disbanded in 1942when several of its members, including himself, were drafted into the USforces.

Under Rodin's wing, alongside its not inconsiderable stakein the schmaltzy Swing market (evidenced by a succession of hits starting with\In A Little Gypsy Tea Room" in 1935) the Crosby Orchestra swiftly became thepre-eminent, all-white, Dixieland big-band, albeit the band's earliest criticsviewed its slavish homage to traditional 1920s Chicago and New Orleans asobsolescent and retrograde.  Itsmost prestigious residency, at the Black Hawk Restaurant (1938-1939), wasfollowed by two stints on the commercial radio show Camel Caravan, the firstreplacing Benny Goodman.  The band'smembers, at first hampered like their dancing public by the rigid exigencies ofSwing, consciously looked to the music of earlier decades and a high proportionof the band's commercial and jazz releases (Decca Records were at first unsureof the market for Dixieland) reflected a conscious policy of reviving the triedand familiar. 

However, as the perception that white bands could - andshould - be as hot as their black counterparts appeared to be growing at thesame rate as the audience for Goodman-style Swing, radical changes were soon tobe instituted.  An energeticband-within-the-band small group, dubbed the Bobcats, soon assuaged anydisappointed jazz fans.  Between1936 and the musicians' strike of 1942 a good third of the band's recordedoutput was devoted to Bob Cats arrangements (effected principally by Haggart)and already by April 1936 the full band had begun to follow suit with "MuskratRamble" and "Dixieland Shuffle", the first in a long line of Dixieland items.

The Bob Cats are nowadays best remembered for a string ofsides generally rated classic Dixieland re-creations.  No doubt encouraged by the popularity of a longer list offull-band numbers (notably "Royal Garden Blues", "Wolverine Blues" and theband's virtual theme-tune "South Rampart Street Parade" -all in fine Haggart orMatlock arrangements, these are still standards of the idiom) the Bob Catsfollowed suit with a steady stream of titles which also reached a readyinternational market. These included their own 'theme' March Of The Bob Cats,Palesteena (a revival of a Con Conrad standard first introduced in a vocalversion by Frank Crumit, in 1921), Five Point Blues, Call Me A Taxi and I HearYou Talking (fine creations variously tailored by the band's talentedsidemen-arrangers Bauduc, Haggart Lawson, Miller and Zurke), plus a host ofother 'revivals' including Zez Confrey's Stumbling (1922) and Carmen Lombardo'sCoquette (1928), with characteristic pseudo-oriental revivals like WashingtonAnd Lee Swing (1910) and Hindustan (1918) set proudly alongside the new,including British arranger Arthur Young's imported settings of Shakespeare and"The Big Crash From China" and Big Foot Jump.

The orchestra's founding members comprised a number witheither direct New Orleans pedigree or New Orleans influences. Prominent amongthe key figures of its seven-year existence were the trumpeters Yank Lawson (b.Trenton, Missouri, 1911) and Billy Butterfield (b. Middletown, Ohio,1917-1988); the clarinettists Irving Fazola (b. New Orleans, 1912-1949), MattyMatlock (b. Paducah, Kentucky, 1907-1978) and Eddie Miller (b. New Orleans,1911) - their co-presence inspired the nickname 'Band of the Clarinets';guitarist Nappy Lamare (b. New Orleans, 1907-1988); pianists Bob Zurke (b.Detroit, 1912-1944), Joe Sullivan (b. Chicago, 1906-1971) and Jess Stacy (b.Bird's Point, Missouri, 1904) and drummer Ray Bauduc (b. New Orleans,1908-1988).

Disc: 1
Till We Meet Again
1 March of the Bob Cats
2 Stumbling
3 Who's Sorry Now?
4 Coquette
5 Palesteena
6 You're Driving Me Crazy!
7 Slow Mood
8 So Far, So Good
9 Big Foot Jump
10 Five Point Blues
11 Tech Triumph
12 Call Me a Taxi
13 I Hear You Talking
14 Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind
15 It Was A Lover and His Lass
16 Hindustan
17 Do You Ever Think of Me?
18 The Love Nest
19 Washington and Lee Swing
20 It's All Over Now
21 Till We Meet Again
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