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DORSEY BROTHERS: Stop, Look And Listen


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THE DORSEY BROTHERS


'Stop, Look and Listen' Original 1932-1935 Recordings


Whether you call them The Fabulous or TheBattling Dorsey Brothers, Tommy (1905-1956)and Jimmy Dorsey (1904-1957) were majorinfluences on the development of jazz in the1920s and '30s. The tempestuous brothersreally had three separate stages of their careers:first, as freelance sidemen for the small, hot NewYork studio bands of the late '20s; second, asco-leaders of the short-lived Dorsey BrothersOrchestra and finally, as highly successfulleaders of their own respective big bands of thelate '30s and '40s. This CD deals with thesecond of these stages.

Although two people acting as co-leaders ofa popular dance band sounds like a difficultconcept, it has been done successfully, althoughnot often. Note the '20s groups led by,respectively, Victor Arden/Phil Ohman andCarlton Coon/Joe Sanders. However when theleaders are brothers, the result can be even moretroublesome, as Tommy and Jimmy soondiscovered. Joining forces as a recording unitbeginning in 1928, the Dorseys not only maderecords on their own, but backed some of themost influential vocalists of the '30s, includingBing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, and the BoswellSisters. They hit their stride in 1934 when theydecided to form a touring band, recording firstfor Brunswick, and then moving with Jack Kappover to the newly formed American Decca label.

In the two knock-down drag-out years thatfollowed, the Dorseys produced someoutstanding and exciting jazz, all the whileengaging in repeated bouts of fisticuffs witheach other; spitting, slashing brawls, in whichthey not only beat each other up, but destroyedeach others' instruments as well. Usually, thesebattles were over the most mundane disputes,and when someone would attempt to breakthem up, the two brothers often ganged up onthe peacemaker.

Born in Pennsylvania, Jimmy (a leap yearbaby, born in Shenandoah on 29 February1904) and Tommy (born in Mahanoy City on19 November 1905), both took cornet lessonsearly on from their father, who led a localconcert band. By the time they were teenagers,Jimmy had settled on the clarinet and Tommy ontrombone. Jimmy would later become an adeptalto saxophonist as well and would doublefrequently on the instrument as well asoccasionally play trumpet. Both worked in apopular territory band called the Scranton Sirensthat traveled a lot but unfortunately releasedonly one 78. By the late 1920s they were firmlyensconced in the lucrative New York studiobusiness, cutting hot jazz sides with the likes ofRed Nichols, Miff Mole, Joe Venuti, and EddieLang. In addition, they played for many of thebiggest names in the dance band business,including Jean Goldkette, Nat Shilkret, RudyVallee, and Paul Whiteman.

In 1928 the Dorsey brothers beganrecording under their own name, but only as astudio group. Their records reflected some ofthe better Paul Whiteman efforts of that periodand even included an attempt to emulateWhiteman's combining classical music with jazz.

One of the two records issued by The DorseyBrothers and Their Concert Orchestra was evenconducted by Eugene Ormandy.

The earliest record included in this collectionis an alternate take of Jimmy Dorsey's 1932 tourde force, Oodles of Noodles, in which Dorsey'svirtuosity on the alto sax is exhibited. This 'B'take was first issued in the 1940s on a Columbia78 album in the 'Hot Jazz Classics' seriesfeaturing early sessions by the Dorsey Brothers.

Even when provided with a transcript of themusic, it is difficult to follow the notes as theywhiz by.

The 1933 tracks are carry-overs from theDorseys' career in the compact New York outfitstypified by Red Nichols' Five Pennies. Backingfacile singers such as Crosby, Bailey, and theBoswells, Tommy and Jimmy were featured insolos that showed their versatility inaccompanying singers with different styles. TheBoswells' lovely version of the Duke Ellingtonstandard Mood Indigo includes gloriousharmonies by the sisters (replicating the threeclarinetlead popularized by Ellington) and agliding trombone solo by Tommy Dorsey thatforecast his reluctant but necessary label as the'sentimental gentleman of swing'. The Dorseyshad a knack for bringing out the best in vocalistswho fronted their band. Bing Crosby seemed togenuinely enjoy himself when he sang SomeoneStole Gabriel's Horn at their joint session forBrunswick in 1933.

When they decided to go on the road withtheir band in 1934, they took some of theirmembers from remnants of the recentlydisbanded Smith Ballew orchestra, includingtrombonist/arranger Glenn Miller, drummer RayMcKinley, saxophonist Arthur 'Skeets' Herfurt,and vocalist Kay Weber. The new group waslarger than those the Dorseys had been playingwith in New York studios, consisting of 11-15men, a size that could be compared to the CasaLoma Orchestra, one of the best of the whitebands of the period that played arranged jazz.

According to Ray McKinley, the idea was topitch the sound of the band around the middleregistersonority of Bing Crosby, who hadfronted the Dorsey band on occasion. Crosbywas then the hottest vocalist in the business andthe Dorseys felt that there was something in hisresonant baritone that would work by focusingtheir sound in the low brass and saxophones.

This may have been one reason why theyfrequently used Bing's brother Bob on vocals ontheir records.

The Dorseys' repertoire was uneven, thanksin part to frequent 'requests' to record certainpublishers' material. Witness such mundaneselections as \I'd Like to Dunk You in MyCoffee" and "I Threw a Bean Bag at the Moon".

But the tracks displayed on this CD show themusical brilliance Tommy and Jimmy Dorseywere capable of in the two short years they weretogether.

Shim Sham Shimmy features one of theDorseys' patented 'fade-in' and 'fade-out'arrangements with one of Bunny Berigan's mostmemorable solos in the middle. I'm GettingSentimental Over You foreshadowed Tommy'sfame in later years when the Ned Washington/George Bassman tune became his theme song(the Dorseys had previously recorded it in1932). It is crooned most effectively by BobCrosby, who does his best to replicate brotherBing's style.

Tailspin, one of their hotter numbers, wasco-written by Jimmy Dorsey and FrankieTrumbauer (who also recorded it with PaulWhiteman) and featured a beautiful Bixian soloby Tommy on trombone. Jimmy adds two fourbarsolos of crisp triple-tonguing on alto toround out the track, with a tasty coda added asa final dessert topping. King Oliver's DipperMouth gets a sprightly treatment highlighted byRay McKinley's crisp drumming and off-the-beatcymbal slaps (Ray's is the voice who yells out theobligatory 'Oh, play that thing!'). SkeetsHerfurt was a valuable addition to the group,playing hot tenor sax solos and even substitutinga lighter sound on the flute for Milenberg Joys.

The band does get a chance to stretch outon several songs, including Solitude (featuring alanguid vocal by Kay Weber) and the perennialflag-waver, Weary Blues, which proved once andfor all that Dixieland could be danceable. Bothof these titles were issued on 12-inch 78s. Theother extended track was the two-part 10-inchrelease of Fats Waller's Honeysuckle Rose.

The Dorseys had used a variety of trumpetplayers on their New York studio recordings, andcontinued to do so in their new touring band.

Bunny Berigan, Charlie Margulis, and MannyKlein were used on many of their pre-1934recordings, but for their dance band, they usedmainly George Thow, a veteran of the IshamJones orchestra who proved to be a source ofmany hot solos, punctuated by the imaginativepercussion work of Ray McKinley. Both Dorseybrothers played trumpet, but by this timeTommy had abandoned it entirely in favor of thetrombone (a tragedy since T.D.'s trumpetplaying best
Disc: 1
Weary Blues
1 Shim Sham Shimmy
2 Mood Indigo
3 Oodles Of Noodles
4 Someone Stole Gabriel's Horn
5 (I Can Make Most Anything But) I Can't Make A Man
6 Judy
7 Annie's Cousin Fannie
8 By Heck
9 I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
10 Stop, Look And Listen
11 Heat Wave
12 Milenberg Joys
13 Basin Street Blues
14 Honeysuckle Rose
15 Solitude
16 Tailspin
17 Dipper Mouth Blues
18 You're Okay
19 Weary Blues
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