Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bobby Hackett with Tommy Dorsey's Clambake 7 (1950)

The wonderful Cornet (and/or trumpet) of Bobby Hackett has been heard in many unique and varied settings over his musical career. Bobby was not only a master jazzmen but one of the greatest lyrical players of all time, who fit perfectly into more commercial and easy listening sessions. (see our earlier post-Bix session 1940).
This date in April of 1950 with Tommy Dorsey is an interesting footnote to his many outstanding jazz sessions.

Tommy had been using the Clambake Seven as a Dixieland alternative to his Big Band.(a la Bob Crosby's Bob Cats) The bulk of the band's sides were made between 1935-9. In the 40s Tommy only used the band on a 1946 date and it was more of a swing session. For this 1950 date, Tommy used an all star group, not players from his current big band. Tommy was nearing the end of his Victor contract and perhaps wanted to have some fun on this date. The results are top notch jazz and some stellar Hackett horn. First a bit about the lineup.

Tommy had solidified himself as one of the country's top bandleaders and he was one of the most brilliant trombonists of the era. He was a capable dixieland player as shown here. (on a future post we'll explore his Hot trumpet work of the 20s).

Bobby , who started out as a guitarist was playing better than ever. His earlier work with Eddie Condon, his own Big Band and Glenn Miller showed a gifted and lyrical improviser who was sometimes handicapped by poor embrochure. By 1950 he had studied his horn more and was playing stronger without losing his lyrical gifts.

Peanuts Hucko, clarinet had paid his dues with the Will Bradley and Charlie Spivak bands and became the star clarinetist with Glenn Miller's Air Force band. His Goodman influenced horn would grace the bands of Eddie Condon, Louis Armstrong and even Lawrence Welk in the early 70s.

Arthur Rollini, brother of Adrian was another big band veteran best known for his mid 30s stint with Benny Goodman. By 1950 he was doing a lot of studio work and his tenor work here, a cross between Eddie Miller and Bud Freeman is a highlight.

Gene Schroeder, piano was another Condon regular and later worked with the Dukes of Dixieland. He was a consumate pro with his own take on the Jess Stacy style of piano.

Jack Lesberg,bass was a solid pro comfortable in classical or jazz settings. He worked frequently with Condon, Hackett and Louis Armstrong. His solid bass workhighlights a strong rhythm section.

Buzzy Drootin from Boston was a solid timekeeper and another Condon favorite who also worked frequently with Bobby and fellow Bostonian Ruby Braff.
Now on to the music.

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans. The old Henry Creamer-Turner Layton classic gets a spirited reading by the Clambakers. A nice arranged intro using the lead notes of the melody and a rolling Hackett break take us into the band chorus. The tenor sax gives the band a sound similar to the Bob Cats and Summa Cum Laude band. Bobby also has some nice breaks on the ensemble. Rollini's tenor solo reminds one of Nick Caizza of the Muggsy Spanier Ragtimers. Bobby's solo is a gem of beautifully cascading phrases perfectly placed. Peanuts follows in his BG mode with the horns riffing behind him. A modulation takes us to the last half chorus reprised by the band with Bobby throwing off some Bix like octave rips and he takes a final break over the coda. A great side.

Original Dixieland One-Step- A classic ODJB composition, the opening ensemble uses the traditional routine with Bobby executing a nice break midway. Peanuts' swinging clarinet splits with Schroeder's tasty piano spot. Bobby's solo is full of melodic runs over the changes leading to Rollini's mellow half-chorus. The band stuts home for the last half with the patented 2 beat ending. (The last chorus band reprieve is the only predictable spot of the session).

Bright Eyes is the surprise tune of the session. It's the title tune of Shirley Temple's first film (written by Richard Whiting and Sidney Clare). The tune was pretty much forgotten in 1950 (Louis Prima recorded it in '34). Taken at a medium dance tempo the band opens with an arranged intro with shades of the In the Mood theme. The first chorus is relaxed with nice horn voicings. Tommy steps out for a chorus of the theme with arranged horn backup. He doesn't play high as usual but stays in the horn's middle register. Peanuts picks up the next chorus for a pretty spot with Bobby taking the second half with his lovely, flowing ideas. The band rides us home with Buzzy getting in a break before the coda. This is a tune that deserves to be heard more.

Tiger Rag- Another ODJB composition gets the Clambake treatment. T.D. slides us into the traditional first chorus with nice breaks for Peanuts. On the second strain Tommy handles the tailgate breaks and handles the Tiger smears on the chorus with Peanuts getting in a break. Boby's lead here is strong and swinging. Gene takes the first solo with his Stacy-like runs with Peanuts picking up for more BG like clarinet. Bobby's in great form with a Cirribiribin -like opening and Rollini finishes up with some Bud Freeman-ish tenor. The band swings the last half, Buzzy takes the tag and Bobby gets in some of his patented riffs on the coda.
The session is a terrific example of dixieland played by top pros and some of Hackett's finest playing in this idiom.

This session has bounced around a lot over the years, never being issued complete. As a kid, I had a Camden EP 45 of Bright Eyes and Dixie One-Step (the flip side had 2 Dorsey big band pops). Way Down Yonder popped up on a Camden lp, The One and Only Tommy Dorsey. In the late 70s, RCA issued a 2 lp Clambake 7 set with Dixie One-Step and Way Down Yonder included. Tiger Rag was only issued on 78. A recent Hep CD from England-Tommy Dorsey, It's Delovely features the late 40s band includes Way Down Yonder and Dixie One-Step. The Classics label has been issuing all the Dorsey Big Band sides and may get to the complete session.

Whatever way you get this session, you'll be in for some great jazz and another important footnote to the prolific recording career of the great Bobby Hackett.