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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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TEX BENEKE
AND HIS ORCHESTRA

American Popular Song

Sounds of Yesteryear DSOY901

 

 


1. Look for the Silver Lining

2. The Way You Look Tonight

3. Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man

4. Lovely to Look At

5. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

6. Always

7. Maybe It’s Because I Love You Too Much

8. Easter Parade

9. Oh! Lady Be Good

10. They Can’t Take That Away from Me

11. ’S Wonderful

12. Somebody Loves Me

13. Love Walked In

14. The Man I Love

15. A Wonderful Guy

16. Bali Ha’i

17. Blue Moon

18. This Can’t Be Love

19. Night and Day

20. Begin the Bequine [sic]

21. Blues in the Night March

22. That Old Black Magic

23. I’ve Got the World on a String

24. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Musicians :

No personnel listed

Arrangers :

Billy May – tracks 2, 6

Bill Finnegan – track 9

Henry Mancini – track 11

Vocalists :

Glenn Douglas - tracks 1, 5, 10, 19

Shirley Wilson – tracks 3, 7

Bill Raymond – tracks 4, 8

Tex Beneke – tracks 12, 23

Shirley Jones – track 14

Claire Chatwin – track 15

Mary Mayo – track 16

Joan Cavanaugh – track 18

Recording dates :

New York, May 30, 1949 – tracks 9, 10, 12, 15, 16

New York, July 12, 1949 – tracks 1, 11, 21

New York, Autumn, 1949 – tracks 5, 19

New York, Feb. 1950 – track 2

New York, 1950 – track 6

Hollywood, Jan. 1951 – tracks 17, 20, 22

New York, Sept. 1951 – tracks 3, 7, 8, 13, 23

New York, early 1952 – track 18

New York, Jan. 1953 – tracks 4, 14, 24

 

This set comes from a number of different recording sessions by the Beneke band and is a collage of songs by popular songwriters of the post-World War II era, including Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and others. Other, perhaps, than Maybe It’s Because I Love You Too Much, all of the titles are standards that have been recorded countless times by numerous big bands. On this recording, most tracks feature vocalists, the band mainly providing backing for them, but several tracks are solely instrumentals.

The vocalists’ abilities vary. Glenn Douglas, for some time the band’s crooner, is the least effective, giving rather mawkish renditions of four songs, but the remaining singers, all of whom are restricted to one or two titles, fare much better. Beneke, long-time singer and sax player in the Glenn Miller bands, sings a couple here, but I found his vibrato in Somebody Loves Me is a bit much, especially as he exaggerates it on the words that end with a final “oo” syllable – you, who, etc. – even though they do not come at the end of a phrase. However, it is not quite as bad on I’ve Got the World on a String. The female singers fare quite well, and of these I found Mary Mayo the most appealing. She was for some time Beneke’s “thrush,” and her well-controlled, warm, sultry voice is heard to advantage here on Bali Ha’I, although she is not provided an opportunity to demonstrate the four-octave range that she had!

About this time, late 1949, Beneke was becoming disenchanted with leading the Glenn Miller ghost band and the Miller estate was of a like mind, so came the parting of the ways. Beneke was then free to dissociate himself from the “Miller sound” and to pursue his own musical identity, which had long been a desire of his. Some of the results of this are to be heard on this CD in the instrumental numbers, ten in total.

Two of the arrangers credited, Billy May and Bill Finegan, were, like Beneke himself, holdovers from the Miller band, May having been with Miller from 1940-1942 and Finegan from 1938-1942. However, neither May nor Finegan here retain the Miller trademark clarinet/tenor sax reed section lead. May, a trumpet player, wrote crisp brass figures and intricate section work in his scores, as can be heard in The Way You Look Tonight and particularly Always, the arrangement of which anticipates May’s own orchestra’s recording of the tune a few years later although he had not yet developed the sax glissandi for which he later became so well known. Finegan dispenses with the clarinet in the reed section and also the waved-derby muted brass. The third arranger identified, Henry Mancini, originally hired by Beneke for the 1946 Miller ghost band (also no longer constrained by the Miller sound by this time), gives more space to the brass, adding some humorous phrasing, especially in the coda, of ’S Wonderful.

No arrangers’ names are listed for the remaining instrumental tracks. One or two of these hearken back to the Miller sound somewhat, especially Begin the Beguine, which has echoes of Miller’s version of Adios, and Blues in the Night March, which is highly reminiscent of Miller’s St. Louis Blues March. The others, however, are very much departures from the Miller voicing; the last tune on the disc, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, an up-tempo, brass section vehicle that is booted along by the drums, giving proof positive of the divorce absolute,.

While this is admittedly a thematic album, it is also a demonstration of Beneke’s finally coming into his own. Providing interesting renditions of these oft-recorded songs, it should appeal to all lovers of swing music, particularly Beneke fans.

Bert Thompson



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