Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good News- Teresa Brewer and the World's Greatest Jazz Band

This delightful session from 1974 has been quite forgotten over the years, We hope this post will bring it some well deserved recognition.

The album was originally recorded for Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label. (he was Teresa Brewer's husband). While Miss Brewer is an acquired taste, her work here shows a maturity as a performer with a nice feel for jazz. (No doubt Mr. Thiele. a top jazz record producer helped). As for the World's Greatest Jazz Band , alias W.G.J.B. they have one of their best blowing sessions. The band has plenty of solo room, on some tunes Teresa sings just a single chorus! The addition of Bobby Hackett's cornet and Bucky Pizzarelli's guitar is also a strong plus.

The theme of the album is a salute to the wonderful songs of the team of DeSylva, Brown and Henderson. This threesome wrote some of the most popular show and movie tunes of the 20s and 30s. Quite a few of the songs came from the Good News show along with some other goodies by the team. (the show was enjoying a revival at the time).

The band's lineup is a strong one. Regular members included Yank Lawson (trumpet), Bob Wilber (clarinet & soprano) , Vic Dickenson (trombone) , Bud Freeman (tenor) , Ralph Sutton (piano) , Bob Haggart (bass) and Gus Johnson (drums). Trombonist Benny Morton had recently joined the band. (he and Vic had both worked with Hackett's tasty quintet). Benny didn't get a lot to do on the session , but was an old pro.Veteran arranger Glenn Osser devised some simple charts , but the structure is pretty loose and free-blowing.

Miss Brewer was always a cute and vivacious performer with a big voice and sometimes heavy vibrato. However she rises to the occasion in this stellar company. She especially connects with Hackett (what singer didn't, he was a master at vocal backup). The previous year Teresa had guested on Bobby's What a Wonderful World album. (another Flying Dutchman production).
While we miss Billy Butterfield's trumpet (he had recently left the band) , Bobby is a most welcome replacement. Bucky Pizzarelli's solid rhythm guitar adds to the already rock solid rhythm section. Now, on with the show!

Good News (1927) the opener is the title tune of the broadway show. Gus'hihat brings in the band wailing with Bud's twisting, percussive tenor on the bridge. The band modulates to Teresa's vocal backed by Bobby's tasty cornet , after another modulation Bob Wilber's soprano is on with a playful Hackett bridge. More Bud , a wry Dickenson trombone bridge and the band goes home with a driving tag by Gus. We're off to a great start!

I Want to be Bad from a 1930 show and film called Follow Thru. Bobby and Vic introduce the melody in duet leading to a cute vocal by Teresa.(right up her alley) A modulation brings on Yank and the band with a striding bridge by Sutton. The band takes things home with some nice noodling by Wilber over the last chord.

The old favorite Button up your Overcoat (also from Follow Thru) makes a perfect vehicle for Teresa. After a band intro Teresa is on with nice Wiber backup. The band wails one with Bud on the bridge folowed by a nice series of trading between Yank and Bobby folowed by Vic and Benny. The band moulates back to Teresa with more cute vocalizing (backed by Wilber) and the band riding her home. This rendition moves along nicely.

Sunnyside Up comes from a 1929 film of the same name and was also featured in the 1956 bio. of DeSylva, Brown & Henderson , The Best Things in Life are Free. Yank opens with his Harmon mute, a greattrademark sound of his , pushed by Bucky's great guitar. Wiber brings on Teresa for 2 great choruses getting hotter on the second backed by Ralph's striding. We modulate to more swinging Freeman tenor folowed by more trombone trading. Yank takes out the last half on Harmon with Wilber noodling underneath. A Great version!

Lucky in Love , also from Good News opens with Haggart's familiar whistling before Teresa enters backed nicely by Hackett. The band modulates with Bud on the bridge. A lovely round toned Wilber chorus with Hackett's bridge then bring on the band who set up Teresa's final chorus (with more pretty Hackett noodling) with atasty unison figure and rideout. Glenn Osser's contributions are felt thruout the date, but the band gets plenty of wailing room.

Varsity Drag (Good News)- This is a real swinging track.A raggy piano intro by Ralph brings in Teresa for two great choruses, a bit Charleston-like on the first and swinging on the second. The band goes aboard with a nice chorded bridge by Bucky. Vic's up next with a strutting, slurring chorus with Wiber on the bridge and a modulation to Teresa's last chorus that swings along with nice vocal variations. (I like her line do the varsity drag-in drag). Vic closes the festivities with one of his dirty pedal notes. This rendition is no drag at all!

Just Imagine (Good News)- One of the highlights of the session. Teresa sings the lovely verse backed by Ralph. Bobby enters with his lovely sound and stays behind Teresa's plaintive vocal. Her maturity and jazz feel make this an outstanding vocal. Bud takes over playing pretty with an equally lovely bridge by Wilber. Teresa picks up the last half with Bobby stil behind her winding down to a long ending with Bobby weaving over the final chords into one of his classic codas. Bobby gives us some of his last great solos here (he passed on in 1976). Teresa and Bobby get MVP honors here.

Together- Another lovely ballad done with a light swing. This tune was featured in the 1956 bio.
Ralph gives us a striding intro into Teresa's vocal (backed by Wilber). A modulation brings on a weaving, twisting Hackett for a half chorus picked up by Bud. Wilber brings back Teresa for the last half and a nice closing vocal tag backed by Wilber, who shines here. Teresa's singing is very expressive on this track. Bud and Bob take the cake on this one.

You're the Cream in my Coffee-from a 1929 film, The Cock-Eyed World. Bob's soprano introduces the theme. (he was a master on the instrument). A nice interlude using some of the bridge's melody brings on Teresa for a strutting chorus. (more Bobby on the bridge).A swinging band chorus follows with Bobby in for the bridge. Bud and Vic split a chorus with Vic's laughing plunger on the bridge and the band takes us home with another bombastic tag by Gus. Plenty of good blowing by the band here.

We wrap up the party with The Best Things in Life are Free.(Good News). Bobby 's graceful cornet opens over bchords into Teresa's cheery vocal (with nice backup by Bobby and Bud) followed by more of Yank's driving Harmon with Wilber on the bridge. A break by Vic gives us more of his wry sound with Bobby darting in for the bridge. Bobby takes a pretty break that sets up Teresa's last chorus (more Bud and Wilber backup) and nice vocal turnaround (The cry in Teresa's voice is very effective) as the band swings us home with Vic's pedal note saying Goodbye!

Yank Lawson and Bob Haggart never were comfortable with the rather presumptous title of World's Greatest Jazz Band. (their sponsor Barker Hickox came up with it). They preferred the Lawson-Haggart Jazz Band which they used before and after the W.G.J.B. days. However, with lineups like this and the Bob Crosby feel of the band (Haggart did a lot of the aranging) it was indeed a very great jazz band. This session certainly reinforces that claim and gives Miss Brewer one of her best vocal outings. At this writing , only Bob Wilber and Bucky Pizzarelli survive (they're both still very active musically) , Miss Brewer passed on in 2007. This wonderful session , last available on Sony/Signature CD is a great testament to them all.

Here's hoping that all your news is Good News!

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