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Pennies from Heaven

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Album Review

There being a dearth of Jimmy Dorsey studio recordings from the 1930s (or any other era) in the CD catalog, this British release fills part of that hole, covering just over a year in the history of the early Jimmy Dorsey orchestra. Unfortunately, the emphasis is on vocal numbers: there are only three instrumentals here, which won't please those who prefer Dorsey's jazzier sides. Additionally, some of the arrangements here now sound a bit old hat, along with the numbers (especially "Pick Yourself Up," not well sung by Bob Eberle, but nicely played), the band not having hit its real stride until later in the decade. But some of what's here is golden: "Dorsey Dervish" is a thumping, pulsing instrumental that almost fills the instrumental gap, and "Stompin' at the Savoy" is a classic in its own right. Additionally, several of the vocal numbers, such as "Slap That Bass" and "The Love Bug Will Bite You" have a sound and a mood that evoke the best memories of popular swing of the period. The bulk of the material here is from movies and Broadway, so you do get the cream of popular composers of the period, including George and Ira Gershwin ("They Can't Take that Away from Me," beautifully sung by Eberle), Cole Porter ("Rap-Tap on Wood," "Swingin' the Jinx Away," both sung by Frances Langford, whose work, by itself, almost makes this disc worthwhile) and Jerome Kern ("Pick Yourself Up"). There's also one oddity here that Warner Bros. cartoon fans will love: a straight version of "I Love to Sing" (sung by Don Mattison), a Jolson number that former the basis for a delightful Jolson parody. The Duke Ellington number "In a Sentimental Mood" is also here, featuring Tommy Dorsey's successor on trombone, Bobby Byrne, doing the vocals. It was a little too early for Jimmy Dorsey to do as much with any of this as he would have in his prime, six or seven years later, but this is a fun collection with decent sound, marred only occasional by surface noise.


Born: 20 August 1927 in Louisville, KY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Jimmy Raney was the definitive cool jazz guitarist, a fluid bop soloist with a quiet sound who had a great deal of inner fire. He worked with local groups in Chicago before spending nine months with Woody Herman in 1948. From then on he was in the major leagues, having associations with Al Haig, Buddy DeFranco, Artie Shaw, and Terry Gibbs. His work with Stan Getz (1951-1952) was historic, as the pair made for a classic musical partnership. Raney was also very much at home in the Red Norvo Trio (1953-1954)...
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