During the big band heyday of the thirties and forties there were thousands of bands playing around the country, saturating dance halls and the radio waves and entertaining people of all walks of life. Keeping track of all these bands is a daunting task, one that hasn't been attempted until now. William Lee has compiled American Big Bands, an encyclopedia reference to the great performers that gave so many people a reason to dance.
Lee has organized his book based on the decade in which bands were founded, instead of alphabetically or based on the height of each band's popularity. Therefore, you may have to use the index to locate a particular performer if you're not sure if the date they were originally performed. Also, Lee's book is not really meant for browsing. The biographies are bare boned, featuring a brief biography, notable players and venues and not much else. As bedside table reading, it's a bore, but as a reference guide to the vast number of big bands performing, it's an invaluable reference.
A quick flip through the book will uncover some little known yet worthy big band leaders tucked away in between Dorsey and Miller. Lee has also documented those bands that have been formed long after the public turned their attention away from big band to bebop and the Beatles.
Some may quibble about the lack of usefulness of the entries, griping about the lack of a discography or, in most cases, notable performances or recordings. And undoubtedly some great regional bands have been left out of the mix. However, Lee has done a great job at what he set out to doprovide a reference guide that sorts out all the bands that helped make jazz a national phenomenon.
I met Erroll Garner at The Theatrical Grill in Cleveland a few hours before our family was to see him on stage at Severance Hall. That was 45 years ago and I was only 15! I spotted him nearby in a booth wearing a beautiful tux with a great white napkin draped over him! I was a little nervous as I approached him (he was eating shrimp cocktail) and said, Mr
I met Erroll Garner at The Theatrical Grill in Cleveland a few hours before our family was to see him on stage at Severance Hall. That was 45 years ago and I was only 15! I spotted him nearby in a booth wearing a beautiful tux with a great white napkin draped over him! I was a little nervous as I approached him (he was eating shrimp cocktail) and said, Mr. Garner, I love playing the piano... is there any advice you could give me?'' He hesitated, then looked back at me and said, Keep playin' and don't stop!'' That was great advice because at 60 years old, I'm still playin' and haven't stopped!