Gentleman Of Swing
November 19th 2005 marked the Centennial
of Tommy Dorsey. Sony/BMG Bluebird Label presents the single
most comprehensive portrait of Tommy Dorsey ever created on
disc. A 3 CD box set Tommy Dorsey - The Sentimental Gentleman
of Swing comes complete with a 24-page book including photos
of Tommy Dorsey with several of the artists and musicians that
he worked with over the years. Dorsey worked with some of the
best, including female singers Jo Stafford, Edythe Wright, Connie
Haynes, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, a young
Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and many, many more. Peter J. Levinson
author of the Tommy Dorsey biography: Livin' In A Great Big
Way adds the introduction.
Tommy was two years younger than his sax-clarinet
playing brother Jimmy. Born to a band director and music teacher in
Pennsylvania, they started out playing with bands such as the local band
Scranton Sirens, the New York-based Californian Ramblers and the
jazz-king himself Paul Whiteman. Jimmy would join a band and tell the
bandleader about his trombone-playing brother. Their mother said
"Jimmy went first and then sent for Tommy…. that's the way it's
Disc One "The Sideman" showcases
Dorsey as a first-call studio and jazz player. The first track
"Dusting The Donkey (aka The Pay-Off)" from 1925 and
recorded with the Golden Gate Orchestra sees Tommy and Jimmy
playing alongside cornet player Red Nichols. The 25 tracks on
Disc One takes us through the early bands that both Tommy and
Jimmy played with and accompanying artists such as Ethel Waters,
Bing Crosby and the harmony group the Boswell Sisters in the
In 1934 the Dorsey brothers decided it was time for
them to start a band of their own, The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra.
Unfortunately the two brothers got on as well together as did Cain &
Abel. The mixture of fiery Irish temperaments and copious amounts of
alcohol added up to a cocktail that produced a nasty hangover with the
two brothers even reverting to fisticuffs. After a heated row onstage at
the Glenn Island Casino in 1935 Tommy Dorsey walked off the stage and
ended the brothers partnership.
Disc Two "The Leader" spotlights
many of the Dorsey Band hits. In 1937 the Dorsey orchestra had
a million-seller with "Marie" composed by Irving Berlin.
"Boogie Woogie" followed this a year later and in
1941 Dorsey had his third million-selling single with "There
Are Such Things" featuring a young Frank Sinatra and The
Pied Pipers on vocals (I am surprised that this number
isn't included in the project). In 1944 Tommy Dorsey and his
orchestra had two further million-sellers with "Opus #1"
and "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" and can be found
here in all their sophisticated glory.
Tommy's career continued to soar with his
orchestra being recognised as one of the finest around. Perhaps
the late Artie Shaw explained the central work ethic of Tommy
Dorsey when he once said, "Dorsey demanded discipline,
and he got it!!!" Axel Stordahl, Paul Weston and Sy Oliver
were among the top arrangers who passed through the ranks. Top-rate
musicians such as trumpet virtuosos Bunny Berrigan and Charlie
Shavers, trombonists Nelson Riddle and Buddy Morrow as well
as drummers Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa passed through the band.
In 1953 Jimmy rejoined his brothers orchestra and
the new Dorsey Brothers Orchestra became extremely popular, with regular
appearances on Television.
Disc Three "The Air Checks" captures
Dorsey sound in its full glory. . Dorsey employed some of
the top vocalists who were themselves to go on to further their
own solo singing career such as Frank Sinatra who replaced vocalist
Dick Haymes in 1940 and Jo Stafford replacing Connie Haines
as the lead vocalist with the harmony group The Pied Pipers.
The 21 tracks…some of which are live takes start off in 1938
and continue through the 40's featuring the afore mentioned
artists as well as Duke Ellington with this whole wonderful
collection climaxing with a live cut of the unproven Elvis Presley
appearing on Stage Show a weekly TV variety program co-hosted
by the Dorsey Brothers in 1956.
In November 1956 Jimmy once again found himself
leader of the Dorsey band when Tommy died suddenly after choking in his
sleep. This venture sadly was short lived as Jimmy died in June 1957
suffering with throat cancer.
Over the past decades the music of Tommy Dorsey has
been kept alive with numerous album releases. Now this definitive
collection The Sentimental Gentleman Of Swing offers all swing fans the
opportunity to experience the grand multi-faceted music of Tommy Dorsey….a
perfect vehicle that will certainly draw new fans to the sensational
music of one of the greatest dance band leaders in musical history…Tommy