Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

173

Tommy Dorsey: Livin' in a Great Big Way

Florence Wetzel By

Sign in to view read count
Peter J. Levinson

Tommy Dorsey: Livin' in a Great Big Way

Da Capo Press

352 pages

ISBN: 0306811111

Tommy Dorsey is certainly one of jazz' most picturesque characters, and this new biography does a marvelous job of bringing the trombonist to life.

Dorsey (1905-1956) was in many ways an admirable man. Born to a poor family in a Pennsylvania mining community, he and his brother Jimmy were working musicians at a young age, encouraged—pushed, even—by their parents. Dorsey went on to create one of the swing era's most important bands and, in a career that spanned Bix Beiderbecke to Elvis Presley (who debuted on the Dorsey brothers' Stage Show), Dorsey became a nationally recognized talent who amassed an astounding 286 Top 40 Billboard Pop Chart hits.

But Dorsey was also a perfectionist with an explosive temper, and the book is full of his over-the-top antics, like stomping on his brother's saxophones after several of their legendary fights. Yet he was also known for his charm as well as a playful side that included initiating bandstand water pistol fights.

Levinson deftly handles the many layers of Dorsey's career and psyche, and he also creates a fascinating journey through the big band era, including cameos by artists such as Frank Sinatra (who famously said, "The two most important people in my life have been my mother and Tommy Dorsey"), Bing Crosby, Buddy Rich, and Glenn Miller, as well as Beiderbecke, Presley, Jackie Gleason, and many others. Levinson's impeccable research and smooth narrative style do justice to a great musician and perplexing personality.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Good Morning Blues Book Reviews Good Morning Blues
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: January 11, 2018
Read The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums Book Reviews The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums
by Roger Crane
Published: December 19, 2017
Read Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The Politics Of Improvisation Book Reviews Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 10, 2017
Read All That's Jazz Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "All That's Jazz" Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums" Book Reviews The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums
by Roger Crane
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene" Book Reviews Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 29, 2017
Read "Soul Jazz: Jazz In The Black Community, 1945-1975" Book Reviews Soul Jazz: Jazz In The Black Community, 1945-1975
by James Nadal
Published: July 7, 2017