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Big John Special '49

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Album Review

On this interesting compilation released by Hep Records in 1998, trumpeter Harry James is heard leading his popular big band during sessions that took place in Hollywood and New York between June 1949 and November 1950. Most of the 25 selections were originally stored on 16" transcription discs which were distributed to radio stations to be used for recruitment purposes during Navy Show broadcasts, just in time for North Korea's occupation of Seoul on June 28, 1950 and the beginning of direct U.S. intervention in the Korean War a few days later. There are vocals by Art Lund ("Stardust" and "Body and Soul") and by a group of wholesome harmonizers known as the Skylarks, who were entrusted with songs like "Hurry Hurry Hurry," "Down By the Station" and "Don'cha Go 'Way Mad." Several different arrangers are listed, most significantly Jimmy Mundy, Neal Hefti and Harry James himself. In the band at this time were tenor saxophonist Corky Corcoran, ex-Jimmie Lunceford altoist Willie Smith, and Duke Ellington's longtime composer and arranger, Puerto Rican valve trombonist Juan Tizol. This collection also includes a pair of Ellington covers: "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" and "Slap Happy," originally a feature for Duke's baritone saxophonist Harry Carney. A big juicy slice of history, anyway you cut it.


Born: 15 March 1916 in Albany, GA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Harry James was one of the most outstanding instrumentalists of the swing era, employing a bravura playing style that made his trumpet work instantly identifiable. He was also one of the most popular bandleaders of the first half of the 1940s, and he continued to lead his band until just before his death, 40 years later. James was the child of circus performers. His father, Everette Robert James, was the bandleader and trumpet player in the orchestra for the Mighty Haag Circus, and his mother, Maybelle...
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Big John Special '49, Harry James
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