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Things are definitely looking up on the local music situation with Harry James riding in for an Adams House date Monday and Jimmy Lunceford here for the Jubilee next Friday.
Lunceford, in the opinion of most musicians, ranks with Red Norvo and Jimmy Dorsey as having one of the best all around bands in the country. His band is deservedly noted for the manner in which they play their tunes--great precision and timing, but still maintaining a solid Kansas City swing. Most unusual feature of the band is the rhythm in which they play a great many of their slow selections--a type of bounce style that never is as tiring as the Goodman four-four "smack." As to what bounce is, combine the sensations of riding over a bumpy road, and Hedy Lamarr for best explanation. Listen to the band's recording of "My Blue Heaven" and you'll see what is meant. Besides playing excellent ensemble swing and "show" numbers such as "Put On My Old Grey Bonnet," Lunceford has one of the few colored outfits in the country that play really danceable, tasteful sweet music. His "Dream of You" was voted outstanding dance record of the year in 1938 by one of the largest swing clubs in the country. His "Remember When," an old Victor recording, makes "Gloomy Sunday" seem something like a nursery rhyme. And on all of his records, saxmen Willie Smith and Joe Thomas, brass men Oliver, Webster, and Young, and the rhythm section provide good solos. Incidentally, if you think Harry James plays high trumpet, listen to Mr. Webster; he's the highest in the business.
In regard to James' arrival, I'm in a slight quandary. There are times when Harry plays some excellent horn (see "Just A Mood"), and times when he doesn't do too well (see "Life goes to A Party"). His main trouble is that he goes off on these terribly stiff powerhouse trumpet phrases that simply tear the walls and your ears to pieces, and while there is a certain amount of kick to powerhouse style, you get tired of it very quickly, and a slow blues style such as on "Just A Mood" is quite welcome.
Speaking from the technical standpoint, there is no doubt one of the finest. Though every music magazine in the country has taken a shot at explaining his "Apple Annie" method of blowing out his checks while playing (distinctly unorthodox), or panning him for it, the still true that he has good tone and really gets around on his horn.
The star side men in the band are Davey Malthews on also sax, who is a Benny Carter disciple, the pianoman, and Ralph Hawkins, the drummer. It's unfair to place final judgment on the band as it has only had a few months' shaping, but if it quiets down and indulges in a little more relaxed rhythm, the end-point ought to be damn good.
Dis-cussing: As predicted here three weeks ago, Martha Tilton has left Benny Goodman's band to marry the manager, her place being taken by Louise Tobin, who when last heard at Nick's, was very good . . . Charlie Barnet's "Only A Rose" is the best disc he has done so far . . . The Nelson of "Wave-A-Stick Blues" is a clever ditty on the night-mares of a band-leader . . . First we were given Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, then Paul Whiteman and his Swing Wing, then Paul Whiteman and his Swing Strings. this week uncovers the Sax Sockette and the Bouncing Brass. Seems to me the latter should have been called the Soothing Sliphorns, but at any rate the sides have more of the excellent dance time that the others did, with some trick double time measures. . . Merry Macs in "Chinatown" show themselves to be still the best vocal ensemble group around.
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