KRUPA, Gene: Let Me Off Uptown

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'Let Me Off Uptown' Original Recordings 1939-1945

He may not have been a virtuoso on the level of aBuddy Rich or as swinging a performer as SidCatlett or Chick Webb, but Gene Krupa was thefirst drummer to ever become a household name.

A superstar and a matinee idol during the Swingera and the decades that followed, Krupa wasone of the most colourful and exciting of alldrummers. He also led a significant big bandduring 1938-50.

Born 15 January 1909 in Chicago, GeneKrupa was classically trained on drums andthroughout his career always took lessons. Hefirst emerged as part of the Chicago jazz scene in1925, working with the bands of Al Gale, JoeKayser, Leo Shukin and bassist Thelma Terry inaddition to the Benson Orchestra Of Chicagoand the Seattle Harmony Kings. In 1927 hemade his recording debut with the McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans and immediately madehistory by being the first musician to use a fulldrum set on records.

After moving to New York in 1929, Krupaworked with Red Nichols' Five Pennies andbecame a busy studio musician, playing dancemusic on radio and records. That lucrative workallowed him to weather the Depression but themusic bored him and he longed to play jazz.

That opportunity came his way in December1934 when he was hired to be the drummer withthe new Benny Goodman Orchestra. Krupaplayed with Goodman on the famous Let's Danceradio series, went on the historic cross countrytour that almost ended in disaster a few timesand helped launch the swing era at the PalomarBallroom in Los Angeles when Goodman'sorchestra created a sensation. While Krupa wasa relatively quiet drummer with Goodman during1935-36, by 1937 he was taking drum solos(most notably during \Sing Sing Sing") and wasalmost as popular as the King of Swing, beingone of the stars of the Benny Goodman Trio andQuartet.

After the famous Benny Goodman CarnegieHall concert of 12 January 1938 during whichKrupa was heard at his most assertive, anargument with Goodman resulted in Krupa goingout on his own and forming his own big band.

At first the Gene Krupa Orchestra did not havemuch of an individual personality beyond itsleader's drumming, but by 1940 the band had amajor singer in Irene Daye and strong soloists intrumpeter Shorty Sherock, trombonist FloydO'Brien, clarinettist Sam Musiker and tenorsaxophonistSam Donahue.

Feelin' Fancy starts the set in swingingfashion with the Krupa big band playing amedium-tempo blues with a boogie-woogie feeland solos from pianist Tony d'Amore, SamDonahue and Shorty Sherock. ManhattanTransfer, which like "Feelin' Fancy" has anarrangement by Elton Hill, features some catchyriffs that must have delighted dancers of the era.

I Like To Recognize The Tune introduces theunderrated Irene Daye, a delightful vocalist wholater in life became Mrs Charlie Spivak.

Tuxedo Junction was a hit for both ErskineHawkins and Glenn Miller. Gene Krupa's versionis unusual in that it has a spot for his longtimerhythm guitarist Ray Biondi. Irene Daye returnsfor the spirited How 'Bout That Mess whichfeatures her singing some of the more popularslang phrases of the period. She is assisted bytenor-saxophonist Walter Bates, Sherock,Musiker and Krupa. Hamtramck is a hot EltonHill instrumental with spots for Sherock, Bates,D'Amore and Musiker, all driven by Krupa. IreneDaye's last session with Krupa ironically resultedin her greatest hit, "Drum Boogie", which starteda series of blues/boogie tunes from Krupa's bandincluding "Boogie Blues", "Gene's Boogie" and"Bop Boogie". However by the time "DrumBoogie" caught on, Irene Daye had retired tomarry trumpeter Corky Cornelius.

Daye's replacement was the most famousnew talent ever to emerge from the Gene KrupaOrchestra, Anita O'Day. Just 21 at the time butfull of confidence, O'Day was a completeunknown when she recorded her first vocals withKrupa, Alreet and a medium-tempo Georgia OnMy Mind, but she was already distinctive and afine jazz singer. It is particularly intriguinghearing O'Day's version of Drum Boogie, whichwas originally recorded as a radio transcription.

A short time later, the great trumpeter RoyEldridge, who was at the top of his field, joinedthe Krupa band. In addition to his explosivesolos, Eldridge was a personable singer. Let MeOff Uptown is the Krupa classic of the period,with a memorable melody and lyrics, a swingingvocal by O'Day, clever vocal interplay by O'Daywith Eldridge and an exciting trumpet solo. Itwas the Gene Krupa Orchestra's biggest hit andmade Anita O'Day famous.

After You've Gone was one of Eldridge'smain features during his year with Krupa. Nomatter how many times he played this solo,"Little Jazz" always stretched himself and tookchances. The Walls Keep Talking has more ofO'Day's singing and Eldridge's playing. Thispiece would otherwise be forgotten if it was notfor this recording. Krupa's orchestra was at theheight of its success in 1942. The meaningbehind O'Day's mostly wordless vocal on That'sWhat You Think is mostly open to one'sinterpretation. Eldridge's singing on Knock MeA Kiss works quite well although the hit versionof this song was by Louis Jordan. The finalnumber included by this edition of the Krupa bigband, Massachussetts, has some jubilant singingby O'Day and a few exciting ensembles.

Krupa's arrest on a charge of possessingmarijuana in 1943 (he was framed) resulted inbad publicity, a short jail sentence and the breakup of his orchestra. He began his successfulcomeback in September 1943 when he had areunion with Benny Goodman. Krupa alsoplayed with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra for a fewmonths in 1944 before forming a new big band.

Initially he made the surprising decision of hiringa string section and having his orchestra billed as"the band that swings with strings." Leave UsLeap was that particular band's best recording,an Eddie Finckel arrangement that has solosfrom the boppish trumpeter Don Fagerquist, therambunctious tenor Charlie Ventura, trombonistTommy Pedersen, pianist Teddy Napoleon andKrupa.

Although the string section was soondropped, the second Gene Krupa Orchestralasted over six years. Anita O'Day returned tothe orchestra for much of 1945 and her presencehelped solidify the band. Her version of OpusNo. One, which had previously been a hit forTommy Dorsey as an instrumental, was a crowdpleaser. Charlie Ventura's huge tone on tenorand extroverted style are showcased onYesterdays. Boogie Blues is basically AnitaO'Day's take on "Drum Boogie"; she is assistedby altoist Johnny Bothwell and probablytrombonist Pederson along with a rousing finalensemble.

This collection closes with an uptempoversion of Lover that hints a bit at bebop andfeatures Ventura and Fagerquist. Althoughremaining a swing drummer, Krupa kept hisorchestra open to the influence of bebop duringthe next few years before its breakup in 1951.

During the remainder of his career, Krupa ledsmall groups (usually trios), toured with Jazz AtThe Philharmonic and had occasional reunionswith Benny Goodman. Although he wassurpassed on a technical level by many otherpercussionists, Gene Krupa remained the mostfamous and beloved drummer up to the time ofhis death at age 64 on 16 October 1973.

Scott Yanow- author of 8 jazz books including Swing, Jazz OnFilm, Bebop, Trumpet Kings and Jazz On Record1917-76"
Disc: 1
1 Feelin' Fancy
2 Manhattan Transfer
3 I Like To Recognize The Tune (arr. B. Carter)
4 Tuxedo Junction
5 How 'Bout That Mess?
6 Hamtramck
7 Alreet
8 Georgia On My Mind
9 Drum Boogie
10 Let Me Off Uptown
11 After You've Gone
12 The Walls Keep Talking
13 That's What You Think
14 Knock Me A Kiss
15 Massachusetts
16 Leave Us Leap
17 Opus No. One
18 Yesterdays
19 Boogie Blues
20 Lover
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