This column is strictly for the pre-baby boomers: the 1930s and 1940s crowd, which isn’t so crowded anymore – the white heads and “baldies.”
I saw the The Honeybee Trio performance at the Kroc Center. In addition to The Andrews Sisters and the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the era was one of Big Band instrumentals, bebop and ballads.
Big bands usually didn’t play concerts (except Stan Kenton). They played at big dance halls like the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles or the casino on Catalina Island.
Almost every band leader started out as a top jazz instrumentalist. Most songs the bands played included jazz instrumentals. Benny Goodman was a clarinetist. His rendition of “Sing, Sing, Sing” won him the title of the “King of Swing.”
In addition to the clarinet solos, drummer Gene Krupa dominated the piece. Krupa later became a bandleader on his own. Some of the other musician bandleaders were Tommy Dorsey and his trombone, Harry James and the trumpet, Artie Shaw and the clarinet, plus Coleman Hawkins and his saxophone.
Hawkins’ rendition of “Body and Soul” is one of the truly great jazz classics. People remember Nat King Cole as the great vocalist, but he first was a jazz piano player with his own trio. A great example of his piano abilities is heard in the recording “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” which also showcases his vocal talents.
I started out by saying this was for pre-baby boomers. I was wrong. Good music is for everyone. Young people today should know that there are instruments besides drums and guitars. I could write a book about great jazz musicians. One last great I want to mention is Dizzy Gillespie and his trumpet. Two songs stick in my memory: “How High the Moon” and “I Can’t Get Started (with You).” You can find every performance I have referred to on the Internet.
Vocalists of the 1940s era were also outstanding. It wasn’t a time of yelling and noise. Most ballads seemed to have genuine sentiments in them.
Here are a few of them with the music that they made popular:
One of my favorites was the ballad “At Last,” sung by Etta James. I love the lyrics. “At last, my love has come along. My lonely days are over and life is like a song.”
Billy Holiday’s “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?).”
There were a number of great male vocalists during the 1940s, such as Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Perry Como, but it had to be known as the Frank Sinatra decade. The list of wonderful Sinatra recordings is long and impressive. I have favorites here, too, such as “September Song” or “Time After Time” and “Night and Day.”
My temptation is to find some way to write all the lyrics because they are real love songs. There isn’t enough room here. I’ve discovered that I am a hopeless romantic.
Researching and putting this column together has been a real “Sentimental Journey” (a Doris Day hit). I hope it has been for you, too.
Music was so much better then than now. We should introduce our young family members to it. I think I’ll do that. How about you?
Reach Murray Bass at 427-0744 or firstname.lastname@example.org.