CROSBY, Bob: Dixieland Shuffle

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BOB CROSBY ‘Dixieland Shuffle’

Original Recordings 1935-1939

Although as a vocalist he may not have achieved the widespread fame of his elder brother, among crooners Bob Crosby had a distinctive timbre and a confident way with a ballad. More significantly, he won world renown as the front-man of one of the finest American swing-bands of the 1930s; a leading ensemble of the New Orleans Revival, it was the one which did the most to revitalise dixieland. Born George Robert Crosby in Spokane, Washington on 25 August 1913, Bob first made an impression as a singer during 1933 and 1934 with the Anson Weeks orchestra and famously doubled briefly as a vocalist with the Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra (despite the vociferous opposition of Tommy, who rated him a poor second to the great Bing).

Later in 1934 he joined Ben Pollack and was with that band when it broke up in California. By the time it opened at the Roseland Ballroom in June 1935, however, the incipient Bob Crosby Orchestra was already taking shape under another figure, Pollack’s Russian-born ex-tenor-saxophonist Gilbert ‘Gil’ Rodin (1906-1974). The entrepreneurial Rodin became the prime mover within the co-operative group affectionately dubbed ‘Pollack’s Orphans’ and Rodin it was who initially hired the casual, easy-going Bob to front the new band and saxophonist Dean Kincaide (Houston, Texas, 1911) and bassist-composer Bob Haggart (b. New York, 1914) as its first, and most imaginative, arrangers. He remained the group’s leader and musical director and was later appointed its president. He was also Bob’s own personal manager, remaining faithful until the organisation disbanded in 1942, when several of its members, including Rodin himself, were drafted into the US forces.

Under Rodin’s guidance the Crosby Orchestra swiftly became the Swing Era’s pre-eminent, all-white, dixieland big-band, albeit the band’s earliest critics viewed its slavish homage to traditional 1920s Chicago and New Orleans as obsolescent and retrograde. Its most prestigious residency, at the Black Hawk Restaurant (1938-1939) was followed by two stints on the commercial radio show Camel Caravan, the first as replacement to Benny Goodman. Without doubt, the band’s members, at first restricted like their dancing public by the rigidity of Swing, consciously sought to preserve the past. The bulk of the band’s commercial releases, too — as Decca Records were not sure of the market for dixieland — erred in the direction of the well-tried and bourgeois ballad, such as "In A Little Gypsy Tea Room", their first US charts No.1 in June 1935.

However, as the perception that white bands ought to be as hot as their Afro counterparts appeared to be growing at the same rate as the audience for new jazz à la Goodman, radical changes were instituted and the orchestra’s energetic band-within-the-band small-group, the Bobcats, soon redressed any imbalance caused to Swing fans. By April 1936, the full band had begun to follow suit with "Muskrat Ramble" and Dixieland Shuffle and from then on a higher proportion of dixieland-swing items — including the charts Louise, Louise (No.18, November 1938) and Swingin’ At The Sugar Bowl (February, 1939) — appeased jazz buffs for the strictly commercial titles which failed to swing, including (during 1939) I Never Knew Heaven Could Speak (No.15), Blue Orchids (No.8) and, featuring vocal by ex-Goodman star Helen Ward, and a third successive No.1 for the orchestra, Day In — Day Out.

The orchestra’s founding members comprised many highly talented sidemen, including a number with either direct New Orleans pedigree or New Orleans influences. Prominent among the 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), Matty Matlock (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).

From the immediate post-war period onwards, Bob Crosby continued his career as a solo vocalist on the American nightclub circuit. He led his own big-bands, frequently re-assembled the available remaining Bobcats for jazz gigs and was regularly a personable MC and host on TV and radio. In later years he toured jazz festivals and made a noted appearance before Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1985. His film appearances included (with the orchestra and/or the Bobcats — or just by himself): Let’s Make Music (RKO, 1940), Presenting Lily Mars (MGM, 1942), Thousands Cheer (MGM, 1943), Pardon My Rhythm (Universal, 1944), Two Tickets To Broadway (RKO, 1951) and The Five Pennies (Paramount, 1959).

Bob Crosby died in La Jolla, California, on 9 March 1993.

Peter Dempsey, 2003

The Naxos Historical labels aim to make available the greatest recordings of the history of recorded music, in the best and truest sound that contemporary technology can provide. To achieve this aim, Naxos has engaged a number of respected restorers who have the dedication, skill and experience to produce restorations that have set new standards in the field of historical recordings.

Peter Dempsey

A tenor singer of wide range and performing experience, Peter Dempsey specialises in Victorian and Edwardian genre ballads and art-song, and has recorded various CDs, including Love’s Garden Of Roses for Moidart. Quite apart from his personal enthusiasm for music in the broadest sense, through his assiduous collecting and study of 78s over many years, Peter has acquired not only a wide knowledge of recorded musical performance but also a heartfelt awareness of the need to conserve so many "great masters" who — were it not for CD — might now be lost for future generations. A recognised authority on old recordings, Peter now regularly researches and produces CD albums from 78s.

Disc: 1
Day In - Day Out
1 Summertime
2 Beale Street Blues
3 Muskrat Ramble
4 No Other One
5 Pagan Love Song
6 Sugar Foot Strut
7 Savoy Blues
8 Louise, Louise
9 Gin Mill Blues
10 Come Back Sweet Papa
11 Swingin' At The Sugar Bowl
12 Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
13 Dixieland Shuffle
14 I'm Free
15 I Never Knew Heaven Could Speak
16 South Rampart Street Parade
17 Tea For Two
18 Dogtown Blues
19 Blue Orchids
20 Day In - Day Out
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