Today I'm going to stick my neck out and write about House dances, and a lot of people are going to disagree with me, and they'll be just as right as I am.
What I have to say is only a suggestion and made even more difficult by the fact that there's nothing wrong with House dances in the first place. They've always been a lot of fun, from the swell two last night at Kirkland and Dunster right down to the famous dance at Lowell House where the whole Stuff Smith band passed out (with the exception of drummer Cozy Cole, who just kept the beat going for a good half-hour and knocked everybody out, including himself). However, it seems to me that House dances could be a lot more fun for everybody of the committees would make use of the policy of having Harvard bands, just as much as possible. By this I don't mean excluding name bands--the more we have of them the better, as shown last night by Vaughn Monroe. My point is this: if a house has a choice between Stan Brown or Russ Randolph and some local outfit--why not give the home boys a break?
In the first place, a Harvard band is a bigger drawing card. A House dance poster announcing that Herman Blotz and his orchestra will play has about as much appeal as a Lampoon Dutch Tilead. On the other hand, if you see a poster announcing Russ Randolphs the chances are you'll say to yourself: "Say, I know a couple of guys in this band. I'd like to see how they play." So you go to hear them and you won't be disappointed. Which brings up my second point: Two big Harvard bands are easily as good, and in most cases better, than almost all the dance orchestras in the Boston area. For smaller dances and parties these bands are easily cut into units. Stan Brown has played many local jobs with small bands, trumpeter Johnny Harlow has led his own outfit, and Tenorman Gene Burgstaller (easily the best jazz musician in the college) can supply anything from a trio up.
Finally, I've always had the impression that a House dance with a Harvard band lends a note of informality that's always welcome, even at a white tie and orchid affair. Last week at Winthrop, a lot of the fun was due purely to the fact that three was a nice domestic atmosphere, what with everybody coming up to request We Three and ask the lead alto for his Ec 61 notes. Well, maybe I'm all wet, but those are the kind of dances I like, and I hope we have more of them.
NEWS AND NEW RELEASES: Record of the year: Lee Wiley's Down to Steambaot Tennessee, slow Jess Stacy. That vocal, piano and cornet combination is a pretty famous one in jazz, as the great Bessie Smith used it on many of her recordings. Similarity doesn't stop here, though: Miss Wiley may not have the range that Bessie had, but her singing shows the same rich vibrato and feeling. Needless to say, the instrumental background is impeccable. Jess and Muggsy play unobtrusively, and the way they blend with the vocal results is a kind of jazz you don't hear every day (COMMODORE) ... Ray Noble cuts two swell dance sides for COLUMBIA, Far Away and Sioux Sue. Both are original compositions by Ray, and show the fine melodic sense that produced Cherokee ... Ray McKinley's fireworks take the spotlight on Will Bradley's Lonesome Road (COLUMBIA). If you like flash drums you can't go wrong on this ... Latest Columbia reissues feature a Duke Ellington album, which includes classics like Drop Me Off At Harlem and Lazy Rhapsody, plus an article on the Duke by John Hammond, who is billed as "America's Greatest Jazz Authority." They're wrong, he's the second greatest. I'm the greatest ... Bela Bartok's Contrasts For Violin, Piano, and Clarinet, features Bartok, Szigeti, and Benny Goodman. This is awfully interesting stuff besides giving a pretty good idea of Benny's all round musical ability (COLUMBIA).