The music of Tommy Dorsey is legendary, as well is the man. Known as one of the leaders of the big band era and as a forerunner of tone and technique on the trombone, Dorsey’s music lives on today with the latest release on Allegro Records, Tommy Dorsey: The Early Jazz Sides: 1932-1937.
It is clear here why the Dorsey band during these years was so popular. Filled with wonderful musicians such as Bunny Berigan, Pee Wee Erwin, Bud Freeman, and many others, the talented pioneers of the swing age. Although one may miss the technicality or complexity of the bop to post-bop eras, there is something to be said for fun-loving, free-flowing swing. The arrangements are tight, the improvisations exciting, and the atmosphere nothing but pure fun.
Perhaps most familiar to listeners (other than the jazz band arrangements of popular Dixieland and classical pieces) is "I’m Getting Sentimental Over You". Used as Dorsey’s theme song for many years, this tune highlights his legendary phrasing and tone. But most of the album emphasizes the lighter side of the Dorsey Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven. The latter is highlighted with tunes such as "Ja-Da", "That’s a Plenty", and others from the Dixieland era. It is good to hear this music again when it was in such an early stage of development. Although perhaps slightly raw, there is much to be said for unadulterated jazz from this era.
The album itself is presented very well. The liners are written by jazz author Scott Yanow and offer insights into the period as well as into the life of Tommy Dorsey. Although the back notes promise "rare historic photos" the inside notes only provide one black and white photo from the period. Furthermore, dates and complete personnel listings provide much information for the amateur jazz historian. The tracks are arranged simply in chronological order, providing for an interesting view of the progress of Dorsey’s band’s sound.
The sound quality is also excellent. Those who enjoy the familiar hiss of remastered old recordings will miss that extra sound on this album. Each instrument can be heard clearly and distinctly (although to my personal tastes, the balance seems slightly heavy towards bass and drums).
Not enough can be said about Tommy Dorsey’s band, and similarly about his own playing. A leader both of musicians and an era, Dorsey is celebrated as a innovator of the time and the genre. It is clear in the collection why he deserves such praise. He combines musicality with showmanship, up-tempo with ballad, classical with Dixieland, and style with grace.