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1942 was a big year for Harry James. He and the band were beginning to be featured in Hollywood films, he had a highly ranked radio show and he was beginning his vigorous pursuit of Betty Grable. Tenor man Corky Corcoran had joined the band the previous October for what was to become a stay of more than 20 years. James is said to have hired Corcoran much as for his ability to play third base as his facility with the horn.
Another in the Jazz Unlimited Series of Denmark's Storyville label, this album makes available three previously unreleased radio shows from the Astor Hotel in New York City, a venue James was to return to many times over his long career. This was one James' very good groups. In addition to Corcoran, Helen Forrest was the girl singer. There were solid arrangements by James, Leroy Holmes and Jack Mathias. Since this was from the Hotel Astor Roof , James concentrated on playing music to dance by enhanced by the strings he had added. This obligation was filled by such ballads as "Sleepy Lagoon" and "Manhattan Serenade".
Nevertheless, James didn't limit the program to sentimental ballads. In fact, up tempo, killer diller material outnumbers the slow stuff. That he was still a jazz player at heart is borne out by the fast paced, hot arrangement of "Two O'clock Jump" which James co-composed with Count Basie. His reputation as a versatile player is substantiated with a soulful trumpet on "Memphis Blues" showing that he was equally effective in the lower register as he is in the stratosphere. Forrest gets the limelight on several tunes including a lovely rendition of the Gershwin Brother's "But not for Me", one of the album's highlights. Dick Haymes was still in the future. So the boy singer shoes were filled by saxophonist Johnny McAfee, and filled quite adequately.
This CD provides more than an hour of music from one of the most popular and musically well oiled aggregations of the big band era performing at its peak. Recommended.
Track Listing: Ciribiribin; Strictly Instrumental; He's My Guy; One Dozen Roses; But not for Me; My Beloved Is Rugged; Sleepy Lagoon; Two O'clock Jump; Ciribiribin; Ciribiribin; You're in Love with Someone Else; Sleepy Lagoon; Memphis Blues; But not for Me; Tangerine; Feet Draggin' Blues; Crazy Rhythm; Ciribiribin; Mr. Five by Five; Daybreak; Avalon; Manhattan Serenade; Ciribiribin
Personnel: Harry James - Trumpet/Leader/Arranger; Claude Bowen, Nick Buono, Al Couzzo - Trumpet; Hoyt Bohannon, Dalton Rizzotto, Harry Rogers - Trombone; Claude Lakey, Sam Markowitz - Alto Sax; Corky Corcoran - Tenor Sax; Johnny McAfee - Baritone Sax/Vocals; Al Lerner - Piano; Ben Heller - Guitar; Thurman Teague - Bass; Mickey Scrima - Drums; Helen Forrest - Vocals; Sam Caplan, Abe Hochstein, Jack Lee, Ray Martinez, Cyril Towbin, Leo Zorn - Violin; Al Friede - Cello
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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