Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bob Crosby's Bob Cats-Feb. 1940

One of the most unique and musical orchestras of the Big Band era was that of vocalist Bob Crosby (1913-93), younger brother of Bing.

Many bands had gimmicks and styles that made them special, the Crosby band used traditional jazz or dixieland as the basis of it's style. The band brought many jazz classics back into the Big Band repertoire and featured a fantastic array of soloists. The Crosby band also spotlighted an 8-piece "band-within-a band" called the Bobcats. This post will celebrate 5 classic sides recorded for Decca in February of 1940.

The Crosby band grew out of a group of musicians who left the Ben Pollack band (known as the Pollack Orphans)in search of their own identity and dedication to Big Band dixieland. Bob Crosby was chosen as leader on the strength of his personality and talents as a frontman and singer. (He had a lot of Bing's vocal timbre and good humored comedic timing). The band had a great crew of jazzmen including Yank Lawson,trumpet, Matty Matlock,clarinet, Warren Smith,trombone, Bob Haggart,bass, Joe Sullivan,piano and New Orleansians Eddie Miller,tenor, Nappy Lamare,guitar and drummer Ray Bauduc.
Arrangements were spit between Matlock,Haggart and veteran Deane Kincaide(also a band saxophonist). Saxophonist Gil Rodin actually ran the band for Crosby but it was always a co-operative unit in spirit and financial gains.

By 1940 the band had undergone some personell changes, but sounded better than ever. That is where we pick up this session. First a few words about the Bob Cat members heard here:

Billy Butterfield, trumpet(1917-88)- Billy had joined the band in Sept. 1937.(from the Austin Wylie Orch.) When Yank Lawson was hired away by Tommy Dorsey, Billy took over the jazz chair with the Bob Cats. One of the most versatile trumpeters, he could play hot, sweet or lead and his beautiful pure tone was always a joy to hear.

Warren Smith, trombone (1908-75)-"Smitty" joined up in early 1937.(He had been with Abe Lyman) Some of the band members were impressed by his blowing at a jam session. He never quite lived up to that hype, but blew a solid, tailgate and later worked with many west coast dixieland groups.

Irving Fazola, clarinet(1912-49). When Matty Matlock's services were needed more as an arranger,"Faz" came into the band in March 1938. One of the great New Orleans clarinetists with a beautiful,round tone, he shines on this session.

Eddie Miller, tenor sax(1911-91) A charter member of the band and another New Orleans boy.
Eddie played one of the prettiest and swingingiest tenors(and a fine clarinet,too). He would go on to be one of the top tenor men of all time.

Jess Stacy, piano(1904-95). The Crosby band featured some great pianists starting with Joe Sullivan, Bob Zurke and Jess in Sept. 1939. Jess was one of the top piano stylists with a great backround in Chicago jazz. He came over from Benny Goodman's band and must have enjoyed the cozy surroundings of the Crosby Crew. (He had his "moments" working with Benny).

Nappy Lamare, guitar (1907-88). Another charter member and New Orleans native. Nappy played a solid rhythm guitar and contributed fun vocals. He and Ray Bauduc led bands in the postwar years.

Bob Haggart, bass (1914-98). Also Class of 1935 and ace arranger of the band. Bob was a top notch bassist and he and Yank Lawson led many fine bands in the post war years.

Ray Bauduc, drums (1906-88). Another original member and New Orleans born. One of the finest traditional drummers of all time. He took part in many Bob Cat reunions along with his work with Nappy.


And now, on to the music: The session of February 6, 1940 produced 4 classic Bob Cats sides. First up was Isham Jones' Spain, a beautiful but little recorded gem. Faz's gorgeous clarinet sound takes over the first chorus with the horns giving him light backup. Next is a sparkling Stacy solo with Miller's mellow tenor on the bridge, backed by an appropriate tango beat. Bily and the band ride out in grand style with Faz repeating his intro. A wonderful record.

Irving Berlin's All by Myself has a lovely vocal by the band's girl singer, Marian Mann. She phrased well and had a nice feel for jazz. She was highly respected by band members. Billy's pure toned lead, Eddie and Faz splitting a chorus lead to a percussive spot by Warren Smith. He wasn't a subtle player, but could swing in a hard hitting style. The outchorus has the reeds harmonized with Billy (a common Bob Cats device) and makes for a tasty outchorus.

The Tom Delaney favorite Jazz Me Blues is next. Bix Beiderbecke made this a jazz standard and the Bob Cats' rebdition is a winner! Billy leads the band thru the traditional ensemble and breaks and Faz has 2 solid choruses. (One can see where Pete Fountain came from).The riff on the outchorus has become a part of the tune. (like the "dogfight on That's a Plenty). Billy's blowing on the outchorus is as fierce as Yank's -he was so versatile.

A forgotten pop tune, Do you ever think of Me? has become a Bob Cat classic. The neat opening has Eddie playing lead with the other horns below him. (sort of a "hip" Hotel Band sound). Nappy takes a fun vocal followed by more of Faz's great horn and an inventive Stacy solo with neat reharms. Billy and the boys ride out with a nice unison break by clarinet and tenor. (a common Crosby device).

The February 28 session was mainly a feature for Marian Mann, however we have a classic version of Armand Piron's Mama's Gone , Goodbye. I'm sure the New Orleans contingent enjoyed this one. Faz opens the proceedings and Marian gives us a nice chorus backed by Billy's pungent plunger horn.(her vocal has shades of Mildred Bailey) Eddie and Smith split a chorus and the outchorus is tightly voiced, backed by Ray's choke cymbal. Although Butterfield gets no solos on these tunes, his lead, obligattos and drive show what would make him one of the top trumpeters of the century.

There are many Crosby Orchestra and Bob Cats reissues on CD. I recommend a crosscheck at Amazon or World's Records. Also insispensable is John Chilton's Stomp Off, Let's Go (Jazz Book Service-1983). This wonderful bio/discography is long out of print , but worth looking for. There will be many more Bob Cats posts, in the future.


Till then' This is the old Dave Cat saying"Happy Listening".

1 comment:

ADILSON CAETANO COELHO Coelho said...

Você disponibiliza algum link para baixar este Tesouro,lhe agradeço,Obrigado.