Vintage Jazz Buffet (5 of 5)

Today is the final day of our 100 songs by 100 artists. I don’t know about you, but this jazz buffet has left me stuffed! I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and found it helpful and fun. I never meant for this to be a conclusive list, so if I left out an artist you love or there’s a song you feel deserves mention, please take a moment to leave a comment. Also, a lot of time and love went into this list, so I hope you’ll share the link with your swing communities.

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

  1. “Fever” – Peggy Lee. I’ve heard it said that Peggy Lee knew she didn’t have the biggest voice, but learned that by singing with quiet intensity she could get people to listen. I don’t know if that’s true since she can sing with some power when she wants to, but it certainly holds true that her voice can mesmerize. She recorded throughout her life, adapting to changing genres over the years, her last album recorded in 1992.
  2. “Cheek to Cheek” – Ray Anthony. Ray Anthony started playing with Glenn Miller and then Tommy Dorsey before starting up his own band. He had a hit with “Dancing in the Dark,” not so much of a danceable tune, but a solid standard ballad. He also achieved fame for writing the theme to Dragnet.
  3. “Messin On Melrose” – Ray Bauduc. Bauduc was a drummer in the 20s and 30s who helped to transition jazz from Charlston/New Orleans jazz into the swing of the 1930s. He played in Ben Pollock’s band for six years, while sitting in on recordings for Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, Glenn Miller, and more.
  4. “Little Jack Frost Get Lost” – Ray McKinley Orchestra. Ray McKinley also co-led the Will Bradley Orchestra which recorded one of my favorites, “Celery Stalks at Midnight.” His own band was short lived as he entered the army during WWII, working with Glenn Miller’s army band. After Miller’s passing, McKinley continued to lead Glenn Miller’s legacy orchestra for a decade.
  5. “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” – Rosemary Clooney. The aunt of actor, George Clooney, Rosemary had a great career in movies and music. Her sultry alto voice stood in contrast to many of the innocent sounding songbirds of the day. Her skills as an actress showed through in her emotional performances, compensating for her lack of virtuosity.
  6. “Jump Through the Window” – Roy Eldridge. Eldridge was not a pretty trumpet player, he attacked the music, aggressive and forthright. His most memorable work came in the 1940s with Gene Krupa and Anita O’Day and also with Artie Shaw.
  7. “Hop, Skip, & Jump” – Roy Milton. Milton was a solid sender, literally. His R&B influenced band, The Solid Senders, benefitted from his driving work on drums. He has a string of hits in the 1940’s, this particular tune being one of my personal favorites of his.
  8. “Love Me or Leave Me” – Sammy Davis, Jr. Unlike the rest of the rat pack who started as crooners for big bands, Sammy started with a small group combo, Will Mastin’s Gang. As a tap dancer, he understands music on a deep level, and knows how to swing it, although his arrangements sometimes veer into his theatrical, vaudeville roots.
  9. “Ballin’ the Jack” – Sidney Bechet. Bechet achieved more success and fame in Europe than he ever achieved in the States during his life. He worked steadily in the 1920s, but had trouble finding jobs in the 1930s. His own attempts to start up bands usually flopped. In 1949, he played a jazz festival in France, and the warm reception he received convinced him to stay abroad where he finally achieved some success and recognition.
  10. “Shout, Sister, Shout!” – Sister Rosetta Tharpe (with Lucky Millinder). The Lord blessed us dancers with this amazing gospel talent who was willing to swing it hard in the clubs with us dancers. She popularized gospel music, becoming so successful as to be one of only two gospel acts recorded on the V-Discs for American troops in WWII.
  11. “Jump Session” – Slim Gaillard (and Slam Stewart). Slim Gaillard was never really taken seriously as a musician, perhaps because the man was hardly ever serious himself. He was immensely entertaining and versatile as a singer, guitarist, and pianist. He often included gimmicks like singing in his made up dialogue of “Vout” and playing piano with the back of his hands.
  12. “Eager Beaver” – Stan Kenton. Kenton came up playing piano in dance bands, but always longed for something else. He started his own band in the early 40s, and slowly built up some success. Adding June Christy as vocalist certainly helped. But Kenton wanted to be playing more complicated, “Progressive Jazz,” for a concert audience. Still, he could swing hard when he wanted to.
  13. “For Dancers Only” – Sy Oliver. A student introduced me to Sy Oliver recently. Sy only led his own band briefly, but he was a successful trumpeter and arranger. He arranged charts for Jimmy Lunceford in the 30s and for Tommy Dorsey in the 40s. In the 50s, he started doing freelance work that kept him busy and working until his death in the 1980s.
  14. “B-Flat Swing” – Teddy Wilson. Big bands were so plentiful in the 1930s that its easy to overlook some of the smaller combos. Teddy Wilson made a career playing in smaller groups where his accessible piano style shined. He often worked with Benny Goodman, and also taught at Julliard for a time.
  15. “American Patrol” – Tex Beneke. Beneke was a sax player, but made his name as a vocalist for Glenn Miller recording, “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and other classics. He led the Glenn Miller Orchestra in the years after Miller’s death, but was unhappy with the limitations placed on the band by Miller’s estate and launched his own band.
  16. “Darktown Strutters Ball” – Tiny Hill & His Orchestra. Like all men named Tiny, this 350 lb. gent moved slow and steady. His band grew in fame over the 1930s to the point where they were doing national tours. In the 40s, he got a gig as the house band on the radio show, “Your Hit Parade.”
  17. “That’s the Rhythm” – Three Sharps and A Flat. Bill Spiedel introduced me to this song. I can’t find much about the group, but they are a vocal harmony group in a similar vein to Cats and The Fiddle. He and I would both like this song to catch on more.
  18. “Blue Moon” – Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (w/Frank Sinatra). At this point, I’ve talked so much about Tommy Dorsey as I’ve mentioned all the people who came through his band, that I feel there’s little left to add. What I will say is that Tommy is my favorite of the two Dorsey Brothers.
  19. “Jack I’m Mellow” – Trixie Smith. Primarily a blues singer, Trixie recorded in the mid 20s with Louis Armstrong. Her fame faded with time, and she was primarily forgotten. Were it not for this pot-inspired song, chances are she wouldn’t be on this list.
  20. “Ain’t Misbehavin'” – Woody Herman. Woody Herman was an experimenter with his big band. Sometimes, its wildly successful, sometimes its wildly successful for someone who doesn’t have to dance to it. For example, his band recorded the Ebony Concerto which was written by Stravinsky for them. That takes some serious chops!

This post is part 5 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.

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5 Comments

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

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

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

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

  4. Ceste

    never thought of Rosie Clooney as an alto…guess I always hear her & see her in my mind’s eye in White Christmas and the honey soprano…but you are right as she aged & her smoking darkened her voice & her range definitely dropped

  5. Peggy Lee – Fever……and my heart goes, thump, and my knees get week….oh man, what a song…

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