Vintage Jazz Buffet (2 of 5)

This post is part 2 of a series that lists one hundred different songs by one hundred different artists. It is designed to be used as an inspiration for dancers to explore the catalogs of our great vintage jazz recording artists. I’ve placed what I consider to be iconic artists in bold. If you are just starting to explore vintage jazz, I recommend you start with these artists.

Part 1 (1-20)
Part 2 (21-40)
Part 3 (41-60)
Part 4 (61-80)
Part 5 (81-100)

  1. “Till Tom Special” – Charlie Christian. In 1937, Charlie Christian started using an electric guitar. For the next five years, he defined what electric guitar meant for a generation of jazz musicians before his untimely death from tuberculosis at the age of 25. At least he didn’t drink himself to death.
  2. “Lindyhopper’s Delight” – Chick Webb. Chick Webb never had the same commercial success as some of his peers, in part due to the limitations of recording technology to capture his powerful and innovating work on the drums. As the house band at the Savoy Ballroom, Chick Webb is the stuff of dancing legend, particularly legends of band battles at the Savoy that are still talked about today.
  3. “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” – Clarence Williams. Pianist, Vocalist, Jug player. Williams was at his best in a washboard band as his piano and vocal chops were merely passable. But his real talent was as a songwriter leaving us such classics as “Everybody Loves My Baby” and “T’Aint What You Do.”
  4. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” – Claude Thornhill. After training on piano in the conservatory, Thornhill worked his way up the dance bands in the Midwest, eventually playing for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. His own catalog often veers out of jazz/swing territory, but there are solid tunes in his collection, and his arrangements tend to be a little more mellow, later becoming an influence for the cool jazz movement.
  5. “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” – Count Basie. Count Basie had his first hit on the charts in 1937 with “One O’Clock Jump,” and produced a steady string of chart toppers after that. What I personally love most about Basie is how his piano playing can be full and robust or light and well-edited. He plays the piano as if it is an additional orchestra, sometimes commenting on the band and sometimes taking over.
  6. “Wave To Me My Lady” – Dinning Sisters. Three sisters from a midwestern family of nine, the Dinning Sisters started singing harmony in church, eventually moving to Chicago to sing for NBC radio and record for the Capitol label. While not as well remembered as the Andrews Sisters who they modeled themselves after, the Dinning Sisters were well-known and popular in their day.
  7. “How D’ya Like Your Eggs In the Morning” – Dean Martin and Helen O’Connell. Like most of the crooners from the 1950s, Martin started as a vocalist for big bands in the 1930’s (in part, thanks to mafia connections). He never really found success, though, until his pairing with Jerry Lewis in Atlantic City  (ca. 1949) which launched both of their careers.
  8. “Just Sittin’ and a Rockin'” – The Delta Rhythm Boys. The Delta Rhythm Boys are like the missing link between 1930’s vocal groups like The Mills Brothers and 1950s Doo-Wop, something you can hear clearly on their recording of “Just Sittin’ and a Rockin'” or “Take The A Train.” I’d love to see them get more play in the swing scene.
  9. “I Diddle” – Dinah Washington. Dinah got her big break singing for Lionel Hampton’s band in the 1940’s, and soon carved out her own distinct identity. She crossed genres, singing standards, pop songs, R&B, and even some country. With the diversity in her work, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you like.
  10. “Sweet Sue” – Djang0 Reinhardt. I’ll be honest. Django is not my favorite for dancing. I suspect its more from the inadequacies of the recording technology at the time than the actual music because I love all of the Django tribute bands and am a fan of the gypsy jazz style he created. But a lot of other people love it, and any list like this would be incomplete without him.
  11. “Reefer Man” – Don Redman. Redman started in the 1920’s earning credit for the first recorded scat solo. He went on to work as an arranger for Fletcher Henderson before moving on to lead his own band through the 1930’s.
  12. “Come To Baby, Do!” – Doris Day. Unfortunately, Doris Day is usually remembered for her 1950’s movie roles and the song “Que Sera, Sera.” But she was a sultry singer working in 1939 with Bob Crosby’s band before that. Her work in the 1940’s deserves some consideration.
  13. “Cottontail” – Duke Ellington. Film scores, songs for musicals, concert music, and one hell of a swingin’ band. He constantly experimented with his arrangements, and is responsible for much of what we think of as big band swing. Honestly, its a little intimidating to write anything about him. Duke is a legend.
  14. “Jersey Bounce” – Earl Bostic. Bostic worked mainly as a side man, never really achieving much fame of his own until the late 40s/early 50s when he had some successful singles. A master of the alto sax, he worked in many of the great bands and recorded with the likes of Don Redman and Lionel Hampton. His own band fostered many future talents along, most notably John Coltrane.
  15. “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me” – Earl Hines. This song is more commonly associated with Sidney Bechet, but Earl Hines does a great job with it, too. While other pianists were playing straight ahead stride, Earl would syncopate his left hand, and pushed jazz piano into new directions. He worked with Louis Armstrong, and is a credited influence for many pianists who followed.
  16. “That’s a Plenty” – Eddie Condon. Eddie Condon was a jovial man with an acerbic wit and a talent on guitar and banjo. While he isn’t well noted for his playing, he knew everyone and was extremely adept at assembling talent. He led his own band starting in the mid 30’s. In the 40s, he recorded some amazing Town Hall concerts that were broadcast over the radio, and are now commercially available.
  17. “Talkin’ Back” – Edmond Hall. Mr. Hall had the distinction of being asked to play for Duke Ellington’s band, which he turned down. He recorded as a band leader some in the 40s, but also played clarinet for Eddie Condon and Louis Armstrong’s All Stars.
  18. “Blue Skies” – Ella Fitzgerald. Ella was not known as a great improviser early in her career, and for years, she memorized her solos. She was a meticulous performer, and although Chick Webb was hesitant to hire her at first due to the fact that she wasn’t a looker, she more than proved her worth with her amazing vocal talent. Some girls can stop a room just by walking in. Others can sing one song, and go home with any man. Ella was the latter.
  19. “Stompin’ at the Savoy” – Erroll Garner. Another piano virtuoso, more evidence of my bias as a pianist myself. Erroll Garner was a virtuoso who didn’t read music. Self-taught, he had a distinct style. His left hand often played block chords like a rhythm guitar, but he was equally capable of fantastic runs without ever glancing at the keyboard.
  20. “Tuxedo Junction” – Erskine Hawkins. “Tuxedo Junction” was one of Erskine Hawkins biggest hits, although he had a few others as well. He was much more successful in his day than his current renown suggests. While many bands split up in the end of the 40s, Erskine continued performing into the 50s, blending in some R&B in some of the later recordings.

For more information on any of these songs or artists, visit www.allmusic.com

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5 Comments

Filed under Big Band, Blues, C-Jam, Dixieland, Jazz, lindy hop, Music, tools of the trade, vintage

5 responses to “Vintage Jazz Buffet (2 of 5)

  1. Pingback: Vintage Jazz Buffet (1 of 5) | All the Cats Join In

  2. Ceste

    I love all this! I’m learning so much. It reminds me so much of Mel Torme’s book My Singing Teachers in which he categorizes his most significant influences & then gives specific songs that were the high pts of those particular performers’ careers

  3. Pingback: Vintage Jazz Buffet (3 of 5) | All the Cats Join In

  4. Pingback: Vintage Jazz Buffet (4 of 5) | All the Cats Join In

  5. Pingback: Vintage Jazz Buffet (5 of 5) | All the Cats Join In

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