Vintage Jazz Buffet (3 of 5)

This post is part 3 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. “Yacht Club Swing” – Fats Waller. Fats Waller was an amazing pianist who used to tear it up at the rent parties in Harlem. He was also one hell of an entertainer, and while not being the “best” vocalist, he was so expressive with his voice that it never mattered. I’m particularly fond of his appearance in the movie, Stormy Weather.
  2. “Blue Lou” – Fletcher Henderson. With degrees in chemistry and mathematics, Fletcher Henderson proves that geek-dom and jazz/swing/dancing have been intertwined since the beginning. Unable to find work with his degrees, he found work in music and became quite the success. Many of the musicians in this list came through his band at some point including Fats Waller, Don Redman, Roy Eldridge, and Louis Armstrong.
  3. “I Like Pie, I Like Cake” – The Four Chefs. This is the only song I know by them, and the only one listed on iTunes. There’s no entry on for them, and I can’t find a website with any info about them. This one song is amazing, and I’d love to learn more about these cooking crusaders for harmonic justice. If you know anything about their secret identity, please share.
  4. “Swingin On a Star” – Frank Sinatra (with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra). Frank Sinatra started with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and I love this recording because it sounds little like the Sinatra most people think of at the mention of his name. Occasionally, I like to play this or another of his early recordings in response to people’s requests for Frank just to defy their expectations. Yes, his later work with Capitol records produced many iconic recordings, but looking at the whole of his work, he was a much more complex artist than those canonical recordings lead us to believe.
  5. “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails” – Fred Astaire. I own the complete set of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, and watch them regularly. Although he was always self conscious about his vocal abilities, Fred Astaire was a solid vocalist with a smooth, light tenor voice that matched his easy dancing. There are many great recordings from all of the films he did, and he also recorded some.
  6. “Opus One” – Gene Krupa. Gene Krupa’s most easily recognized work is his drum solo on Benny Goodman’s recording of “Sing, Sing, Sing.” He was the first to use a full drum set on recordings and brought the drums to greater prominence through his use of drum solos. After a tiff with Goodman, Krupa started his own band which was well regarded.
  7. “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” – Glenn Miller. Glenn Miller had many hits including “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Kalamazoo,” “Pensylvania 6500,” and more. Many of these songs have been staples in the dance scene as long as I can remember because of their familiarity to both beginner and experienced dancers. His collection runs much deeper than those hits, though, and their are a lot of great songs that most dancers don’t know that deserve some attention. One of my favorites is “Sunvalley Stomp.”
  8. “Taps Miller” – Geraldo. Success is easier when you don’t have a lot of competition. Geraldo, born Gerald Walcan Bright, trained as a pianist and organist at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was a successful band leader in Europe for many years.
  9. “I Met My Baby at Macy’s” – Gordon Polk. Polk was an actor and singer who occasionally worked with Tommy Dorsey’s band. I heard this song on NPR as I was driving home one night, and tracked it down on the CD They Also Sang, which features the Tommy Dorsey band with various singers.
  10. “Who Put the Benzedrine In Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine” – Harry “The Hipster” Gibson. Gibson had great potential that never fully manifested in thanks to a drug problem. He achieved some rising success in the 1940’s, performing on one of Eddie Condon’s Town Hall concerts, recorded a few songs in the late 40s, and fell back into obscurity.
  11. “Undecided” – Harry James. Harry was the song of circus owners, but took to the trumpet instead of the high wire. He started in the mid-30s with Ben Pollack and then Benny Goodman before starting his own successful band in the 1940s. He had a smooth, sweet sound on the trumpet which he translated into his band. While popular, it didn’t earn him critical acclaim. Despite his sweet sound, the band could swing hard when they wanted, and he’s definitely worth checking out.
  12. “‘Deed I Do” – Helen Humes. Humes first recorded in 1927 at the age of 14 (the 1920s version of Justin Bieber). She went on to sing for Harry James and Count Basie. She had some success in the 50s, dropped out of the music scene for a bit, and then made a comeback in the 70s working steadily until her death. While she started singing blues, she was equally capable in every genre she touched.
  13. “I’ve Got a Gal In Kalamazoo” – Jack Teagarden. We’ve had clarinets, trumpets, drummers, guitarists, and pianists. Teagarden brings the trombone, and when I say he brings it, I mean he brings it! Before big band music went main stream, Teagarden signed a five year contract with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, preventing him from launching his own band until 1939. Without the limitations of that contract, he might have been another Benny Goodman in his renown. While his name may not have caught on the same way, he was certainly an equal in talent.
  14. “Cement Mixer (Put Ti Put Ti)” – Jimmie Lunceford. Considered a second tier band without the musicians to achieve Duke Ellington or Count Basie’s status, Lunceford made up for the lack of all-star talent with showmanship, refined and well-rehearsed arrangements (thanks to Sy Oliver), and some catchy novelty numbers. He featured high-note trumpeters, one of the first to do so, and made several other significant contributions to the style.
  15. “I’m Goin’ Huntin” – Jimmy Bertrand. Bertrand was a dummer and educator, mentoring future greats like Lionel Hampton. He worked steadily through the 20’s and 30’s before packing up his sticks for a job in a meat packing plant in the mid 40’s.
  16. “Begin the Beguine” – Jimmy Dorsey. Jimmy was a solid reed player who notably co-led a band with his brother, Tommy. Tommy tends to get more recognition since it was his band that launched Sinatra’s career, but Jimmy had a band that ranked in the top 5 recording artists in 1943 and 44. His pop tunes have been widely released, and he is better known for those than his less available instrumental work.
  17. “Four or Five Times” – Joe Williams. Williams worked with the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton and Andy Kirk before finally landing with the Count Basie Orchestra in the 1950s. His R&B influenced vocals were a worthy replacement for Jimmy Rushing, and helped to maintain Count Basie’s popularity during a time when much of the work for big bands was drying up.
  18. “Sweet Georgia Brown” – Johnny Hodges. Hodges was a reed player for Duke Ellington’s orchestra, and Duke featured his smooth, beautiful tone on many of the groups ballads. He left Duke’s band briefly in the early 50s in an attempt to launch a solo career before returning to the band by 1956. He made a few other recordings as a soloist, but is primarily associated with Ellington’s outfit.
  19. “The Spinach Song” – Julia Lee and Her Boyfriends. Julia Lee was known for her double entendre songs such as this one. She was also an accomplished pianist. The bulk of her recordings come from her work with Capitol records from 1944 to 1952.
  20. “Why Don’t You Do Right” – Kay Kyser. Kay Kyser was the “George Gee” of his day. He took over the campus band, and his great personality and wit helped launch their career. He was essentially a front man, hired great talent to do the work, and made sure the band was entertaining and successful. His shtick went over well on his radio show, Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge, which was on the air for 11 years.


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5 responses to “Vintage Jazz Buffet (3 of 5)

  1. Pingback: Vintage Jazz Buffet (2 of 5) | All the Cats Join In

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

  3. Jaume

    “Humes first recorded in 1927 at the age of 14 (the 1920s version of Justin Bieber).”

    Ugh… Justin Bieber, hated and loved at the same time…

    A better comparison, although they are not that well known yet, would be to compare her to Sant Andreu Jazz Band (ages 8-17, and their rising star Andrea Motis (age 15, With two records of the band and one on her name there’s surely one with her singing being 14 years old.

    Great singer, and she’s learning to dance lindy too.

    Yeah, it’s not vintage, but they are great and deserve even more exposition.

  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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