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Album Review

The first ten tracks of this fifth volume of Red Norvo's complete recordings document the gradual demise of Norvo's big band, a unit he'd fronted since January of 1936. Only one of these — a jumpin' arrangement of "Some Like It Hot" — is instrumental. Seven tracks are burdened with the vapid vocalizing of Terry Allen. Mildred Bailey sings "There'll Never Be Another You," not to be confused with the more famous song with a similar title, introduced in 1942 by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. She also performs the weirdly infantile "Three Little Fishes," a goofy number that gooses her into sounding almost as silly as Mae Questal. Norvo disbanded the group in June of 1939, and briefly reassembled a different 15-piece ensemble to record four sides for Columbia in March of 1942. Mildred Bailey, who had recorded with Harry Sosnik's orchestra one month earlier, sat in to sing on what would number among the last records she would ever make with her ex-husband Red Norvo. "I'll Be Around" is gorgeous, not as stylized as Cab Calloway's marvelously polished version, but beautifully rendered with dramatic tenderness. The lively, humorous "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry" is one of her very best performances on record, fortified with a snappy infusion of rhumba rhythm and full-blown big-band swing. The next leg of Norvo's journey involved concentrated work for the war effort. He was one of the first to make lightweight 12" 78-rpm records for V-Disc, providing musical entertainment for armed forces personnel during the Second World War. As usual, spoken introductions were grafted onto some of the selections, first by vocalist Carol Bruce and even Norvo himself, who greets the troops before launching into what is apparently the first recording ever made of "1-2-3-4 Jump." This kickin' jam tune, which would serve him well in the years to come, is followed by three similarly exciting instrumentals, including an expanded five-minute treatment of Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone." With these magnificent performances, Red Norvo attained artistic maturity as he prepared to accelerate his own stylistic evolution in a manner commensurate with the progressive jazz scene of the 1940s.

1939-1943, Red Norvo and His Orchestra
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