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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Tommy DORSEY (1905-1956)

Music Maestro Please
Original recordings: Volume 1: 1935-1939
NAXOS JAZZ LEGENDS 8.120580 [62.50]


Stomp it off
Weary Blues
Maple Leaf Rag
Chinatown, my Chinatown
For sentimental reasons
Little white lies
Tears in my heart
The milkman’s matinee
Royal Garden Blues
Night glow
Music Maestro please
The Sheik of Araby
Black eyes
Everybody’s doin’ it
Night and day
Washboard Blues
Boogie Woogie
Night in Sudan

Twenty tracks, many of familiar numbers, from one of the finest jazz trombonists of all time with his own orchestra or with his Clambake Seven, recorded either in Hollywood or New York during the four years leading to the Second World War, and remastered (very well too) by Peter Dempsey.

Dorsey was the leader of one of the greatest of the Big Bands of the Swing Era. He was the brother of Jimmy Dorsey but a famous split between them took place in 1935 during a Glen Island Casino gig and each in his own right then led a successful outfit.. Tommy became known as the Sentimental Gentleman of Swing and employed the exalted likes of Bunny Berrigan, Bud Freeman, and Buddy Rich. By 1937 he had his first million seller with ‘Marie’ (an Irving Berlin number) and he and Benny Goodman were amicable rivals (between the dates of this CD Goodman’s fifty top ten hits had nine at No.1 and five at No.2, whereas Dorsey, in the same period, had sixty top ten hits, of which thirteen were at No.1 and four at No.2). It would take Glenn Miller to overshadow Tommy Dorsey. The Dorsey brothers, incidentally, were eventually reconciled from 1947 until Tommy’s death on 26 November 1956.

Most of the tracks are self-evidently great hits. These are the most popular numbers of the day from the Cole Porter ‘Night and Day’ to Scott Joplin’s ‘Maple Leaf Rag’, while the creamy voice of Edyth Wright features in the vocals of ‘Jamboree’, ‘Everybody’s doin’ it’, not the Turkey Trot but the Ragtime, ‘Tears in my heart’ and ‘The milkman’s matinee’. Apart from the smooth sophistication of Dorsey’s trombone playing, which I have admired for years, it’s the sheer homogeneity of the instrumental choruses within his ensemble which are so striking. This extends even to the rather cheeky out-of-tuneness of the clarinets Johnny Mintz and Mike Doty in ‘Nola’, followed by the impeccably focused trumpets led by Pee Wee Erwin and the witty piano playing of Howard Smith, all of them long-term Dorsey players. The best track of the lot (from the point of view of the playing rather than the transfer quality) is the cheerful, foot-tapping ‘Boogie Woogie’ from September 1938. Tommy Dorsey has the last word.

Christopher Fifield

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