Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Harry James and His Orchestra: The Music Makers

182

Harry James and His Orchestra: The Music Makers

By

View read count
Harry James and His Orchestra: The Music Makers
While the listener won’t find any crowd-pleasing hit songs on this album, he or she will be treated to more than seventy-four minutes of quite enjoyable music-making by ace trumpeter / bandleader Harry James and his orchestras (with three exceptions — “Tuxedo Junction,” performed by a nonet, and quartet-only versions of “Sleepy Time Gal” and “The Man I Love”). This compilation surveys the period from 1939, shortly after James left the Benny Goodman Orchestra to form his own ensemble, through 1951, years in which the trumpeter and his ensembles recorded prolifically (except for 1943-44 when a musicians’ union ban kept almost everyone from entering the studios). Among the pleasant surprises are radiant compositions / arrangements by Gray Rains (“Sharp as a Tack,” “Record Session”) and Dave Matthews (“Duke’s Mixture,” “Jeffries Blues”). Other well-known arrangers include Leroy Holmes (“Prince Charming”), Jimmy Mundy (“9:20 Special,” “Ultra”) and Ray Conniff (Kurt Weill’s “September Song”). Harry doesn’t neglect the standards, even honoring the wishes of many an inebriated barfly by playing “Melancholy Baby.” Irving Berlin is represented by “Easter Parade,” George Gershwin by “The Man I Love,” Harold Arlen by “Get Happy,” Rodgers and Hart by “Manhattan,” even Fats Waller by a leisurely reading of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” on which Harry plays muted and open trumpet. James himself wrote “Feet Draggin’ Blues,” “Let Me Up,” “Ultra” and co-authored “Music Makers.” James was a musical chameleon, able to play well in any style from Dixieland to swing, blues to ballads, and his trumpet sound is almost instantly recognizable. That was one of the reasons for his enduring success; another was his resolve to surround himself with the most capable sidemen in the business, heavy hitters like saxophonists Willie Smith, Vido Musso and Corky Corcoran, trombonists Juan Tizol and Ziggy Elmer, drummers Nick Fatool and Alvin Stoller, all of whom are heard on this album.

The leader, of course, takes the lion’s share of the solos, but no one who has heard him play would complain about that. Smith and Elmer make their presence known on “9:20 Special” (which also contains one of Harry’s most inspired solos), and there are brief statements elsewhere by Corcoran, Tizol and Matthews (on tenor sax), among others. But the orchestra is what this music is all about, and Harry James led one of the most formidable ensembles of his day. Even though the cramped monaural sound is fairly typical of the time, it doesn’t greatly lessen the pleasure one derives from listening once more to the incomparable Harry James and his merry bands of music-makers.

Contact: Memoir Records Ltd., P.O. Box 66, Pinner, Middlesex HA5 25A, United Kingdom. Web site: www.memoir.demon.co.uk .

Track Listing

I Found a New Baby; Feet Draggin

Personnel

Harry James
trumpet

Harry James, trumpet, and his orchestras, May 1939

Album information

Title: The Music Makers | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Memoir


< Previous
Black Drops

Next >
Harlem 2000

Comments

Tags


For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

More

Harken!
Threeway with special guest John Etheridge
Stream of a Dream
Daniel Carter, Matthew Putman, Federico Ughi
Gnash
Dave Rempis / Tashi Dorji
Boundaries
Jake Baldwin, Zacc Harris, Pete Henning

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.