More than 40 years ago, Capitol Records issued the first of nine albums by Glen Gray’s Casa Loma Orchestra saluting the greatest ensembles of the Big Band era (including his own). The twenty selections on Swinging Sounds
were collected from those volumes and reissued on CD by one of Gray’s ardent boosters, Tom Daly, who was introduced to the orchestra those many years ago by his late father, John F. Daly. At the time these recordings were made, Gray had been leading a band for many years and was in a position to employ some of the most accomplished sidemen on the West Coast. As a result, the ensemble is as sharp and orderly as one could wish, and its impressions of other well–known bands are dead on target. Perhaps too much so for some listeners. After all, good as Casa Loma is, these are still no more than facsimiles of themes made popular by other bands (with the exeption, that is, of Casa Loma’s own “New No Name Jive”). For those who haven’t heard the music before, Swinging Sounds
may be fresh and exciting; these are, after all, among the finest instrumentals ever preserved on record. On the other hand, those who remember the original versions may wonder why someone would bother to copy them note for note and re–record them. But then again, why not? If the songs are that exemplary (and they are), introducing them to a wider audience can’t be harmful, and may do some good. Casa Loma certainly plays them as well as anyone, including even the bands that introduced them. With swing mounting a comeback as the millennium draws to a close, the younger generation should be given a chance to hear what swing was all about when peformed by the finest big bands ever assembled. For a striking overview of how the landscape must have appeared when Basie, Ellington, Goodman, the Dorsey brothers, Harry James, Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton, Les Brown and other remarkable big bands reigned supreme, they could do worse than to begin their enquiry right here.
Track listing: Bugle Call Rag; Leap Frog; Take the “A” Train; Intermission Riff; Night Train; South Rampart Street Parade; Ciribiribin; New No Name Jive; Back Bay Shuffle; Tippin’ In; Opus No. 1; Moten Swing; Cherokee; Jumpin’ at the Woodside; Study in Brown; In the Mood; 720 in the Books; Woodchopper’s Ball; Flying Home; The Elks’ Parade (61:46).