Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, which had gone into a mild decline in the late ’30s, was by 1940 making a strong comeback owing largely to the addition of several key ingredients — star trumpeter Bunny Berigan, whose alcoholism hadn’t as yet subverted his playing; drummer Buddy Rich, late of the Artie Shaw orchestra; the consummate swing arranger, Sy Oliver, lured away from the Jimmie Lunceford band; and a slender young vocalist from Hoboken, New Jersey, by way of the Harry James orchestra, Francis Albert Sinatra (TD’s female singer was girlish–voiced Connie Haines, his vocal group the Pied Pipers). On May 21, 1940, the Dorsey orchestra began a 14–week engagement at New York City’s Astor Hotel, from which the air–checks in this collection are taken. Several of the programs were beamed to Latin American audiences, and it’s interesting to hear the orchestra introduced (on the first eleven tracks) by a Spanish–language announcer. Sinatra, more mannered and less polished than the superstar he would soon become, is heard on seven numbers including “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Marie” and two versions of Brooks Bowman’s “East of the Sun.” Haines (not Jo Stafford, as indicated on the disc’s cover) sings “I’m Nobody’s Baby” and “It’s a Wonderful World.” Berigan is a standout on his signature tunes, “Song of India” and “Marie,” as well as on “East of the Sun,” “Whispering,” “Devil’s Holiday” and “Hawaiian War Chant,” and helps close the show with a blistering chorus on Vincent Youmans’ “Hallelujah” (with Rich blazing away behind him). Although the orchestra was at this time a work in progress, one can nevertheless glimpse occasional flashes of the greatness that lay ahead. Considering its source, the over–all sound quality is admirable, the 58–minute playing time more than acceptable. For completists, a respectable volume of Dorsey–style swing to add to one’s library.
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