What Is This Thing Called Love? : Cool Love Songs of the 30s & 40s
CD:PPCD 78114 / CASSETTE: / RUNNING TIME: 67:47
Ella Fitzgerald: Taking A Chance On Love << sound clip
Nat King Cole: Sweet Lorrraine
Tommy Dorsey/Connie Haines: What Is This Thing Called Love?
Tommy Dorsey/Frank Sinatra: The Sunshine Of Your Smile
Jimmy Dorsey/Helen O'Connell: All Of Me
Bing Crosby: Sposin' << sound clip
Artie Shaw/Helen Forrest: Say It With A Kiss
Perry Como: May I Never Love Again
Coleman Hawkins/Thelma Carpenter: He's Funny That Way
Benny Goodman: These Foolish Things
Teddy Wilson/ Billie Holiday: More Than You Know
Fats Waller: When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful
Dinah Shore: Body And Soul
Frances Langford & Tony Martin: Why Do I Love You?
Louis Armstrong: I Can't Give You Anything But Love << sound clip
Nan Wynn: Think It Over
The Mills Brothers: Old Fashioned Love
Teddy Wilson/Helen Ward: Here's Love In Your Eye
Gene Krupa, Anita O'Day & Johnny Desmond: Two In Love
Judy Garland: A Journey To A Star
Glenn Miller/Ray Eberle: The Nearness Of You
Dorothy Lamour: The Man I Love
Songs about that most universal of all emotions, love, strike a chord with anyone who has or has had stars in their eyes. Of course your partner is the most wonderful person in creation - and why not? Such a relationship heightens your awareness and you really do look at the world through rose-coloured glasses. You will therefore have an affinity with all of these songs - you've either been there, or at least you can imagine yourself in the singer's place.
As the Thirties yielded to the Forties, subtle changes were taking place on the popular music front. The general trend was away from the livelier tunes to slower, more laid-back numbers. During the war years too, the personality vocalist came to the fore in a big way. On this compilation for example Frank Sinatra was to emerge from the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and Perry Como from Ted Weems' unit. Ella Fitzgerald, out of respect for Chick Webb (who had died in 1939) carried on fronting his band for a while, before she too became a solo attraction in 1942. The big bands continued for a few more years until December 1946 when inside the space of a few weeks, eight American bandleaders disbanded. For some it was a temporary measure, for others it was for good. Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey were among the casualties, reflecting the shift in public taste. But there was no better training ground for aspiring vocalists than in the confines of a touring band - if you could survive and succeed there, the chances are that you would make it on your own.
Ella Fitzgerald had joined Chick Webb's band as a vocalist in 1935, when she was seventeen. She turned solo at twenty-four, but had to wait until 1955 and Norman Granz's classic series of song books before she became an international star. Greatly admired by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme, all the ingredients of greatness were there in 1940 in her warm, caressing version of Taking A Chance On Love. Synonymous with Nat King Cole was Sweet Lorraine, included here in a recording from his Trio days (the Trio disbanded in 1951). As a pianist his main influence was the great Earl 'Fatha' Hines but it is as a matchless vocalist that we remember him best today, lost to us far too soon at the early age of forty-seven in 1965. Sy Oliver was snapped up by Tommy Dorsey when he left Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra in 1939. It is Oliver's bouncy ahead-of-its-time arrangement of What Is This Thing Called Love? that makes it work so well. Connie Haines sings the stylish vocal. Frank Sinatra cites his greatest teacher as Tommy Dorsey ...'by the way he breathed and phrased on the trombone'. An example of this can be heard on their famous recording of The Sunshine Of Your Smile; first there is Dorsey's fluid trombone followed by Sinatra's equally accomplished vocal. Frank Sinatra is, in many people's view, the greatest popular vocalist of the century. After his two-and-a-half year stint with Tommy Dorsey (1940-42) he has enjoyed a phenomenally successful solo career.
June 1935 marked the beginning of the well-known rift between Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. Until then they had been joint leaders of the Dorsey Brothers' Orchestra, but one evening after an altercation with his brother on the bandstand at the Glen Island Casino, Tommy picked up his trombone and walked off the stage for good. Jimmy was left in sole charge of the band while Tommy went off to start one of his own. Both units were highly successful and Jimmy's long-serving vocalist Ray Eberle was joined by the personable Helen O'Connell early in 1939. Listen to her sultry, Billie Holiday-influenced All Of Me. After his death in October 1977, many show business greats paid tribute to Bing Crosby. Tony Bennett summed it up nicely: 'Bing created a culture. He has contributed more to popular music than any other single person - he moulded popular music. Every singer in the business has taken something from Crosby. Every male singer has a Bing Crosby idiosyncrasy.' When Bing recorded S'posin' in April 1939, he was unchallenged as the world's leading popular singer.
The mercurial clarinetist Artie Shaw led several different bands and groups between 1936 and 1954. He found himself catapulted to stardom in 1938 after his massive hit recording of 'Begin The Beguine' and for a while his orchestra rivalled Benny Goodman's in the popularity stakes. The pressures on Shaw began to build up until he walked out of the band in November 1939, but that's another story. The stylish Helen Forrest was undoubtedly one of the best of the big band vocalists. After Shaw broke up his orchestra she went on to sing with the Benny Goodman and Harry James bands before turning solo after the war. The relaxed, soothing tones of Perry Como can be heard on May I Never Love Again. Perry was vocalist with the Ted Weems Orchestra for six years before embarking on his remarkable solo career.
The innovative Coleman Hawkins (with vocalist Thelma Carpenter) recorded He's Funny That Way at the same recording session which produced his most famous record, 'Body And Soul'. Thelma sensibly changes the song to suit her gender, and there's plenty of space for a long improvisational tenor sax solo from The Hawk. Hawkins had not long returned from a five year sojourn of Europe and was now at the peak of his powers. By way of contrast, the Benny Goodman Sextet's These Foolish Things is the only instrumental in this collection. 'The King Of Swing' sets a laid-back tempo, allowing solo space for the great Charlie Christian on electric guitar and Lionel Hampton on vibes. Pianist Teddy Wilson was a key member of Benny Goodman's orchestra and small groups for a number of years but still found time to lead studio bands and record many classic sides with the legendary Billie Holiday. Billie was the ultimate jazz singer, and her reputation since her early death in 1959 has continued to grow. You can hear why on More Than You Know where she is sympathetically backed by Teddy Wilson's piano-led group which includes Roy Eldridge on trumpet and Benny Carter on alto saxophone.
'Fats could set the telephone book to music' - these words were spoken by Andy Razaf, Thomas 'Fats' Waller's main songwriting partner, whilst paying tribute to the late pianist and entertainer. A protege of the great Harlem stride pianist James P Johnson, Fats progressed in leaps and bounds, gaining international stardom with his series of Fats Waller and his Rhythm recordings from 1934. In the few years left to him (he died at thirty-nine in December 1943) we can be thankful that he recorded so prolifically, including such gems as When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful.
Dinah Shore was one of the best of the popular vocalists, witness her smooth caressing tones on Body And Soul. Unlike most of her contemporaries, Dinah didn't emerge from a name band although she had auditioned for some of them, without success. Dinah's rise to fame was achieved through records and her frequent appearances on radio shows such as the 'Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street' series and 'The Eddie Cantor Show'.
Two stars of screen and radio, Frances Langford and Tony Martin, join forces to sing Kern and Hammerstein's evocative Why Do I Love You? from 'Show Boat'. Tony Martin's film career was more extensive than that of Frances Langford. Frances became best known for her four year wartime stint on Bob Hope's 'Pepsodent Show' and was chosen by the American GIs as the 'Number One Girl Of World War Two'.That unmistakeable gravelly voice plus those effortless golden trumpet tones combine to give us a sample of the beloved Louis Armstrong, one of the towering figures in classic jazz. He was far more besides, and an untiring ambassador for jazz and popular music with his All Stars from 1947 until his death in 1971. Nan Wynn is not one of the major names in popular American music, but she's none the worse for that. In demand as a vocalist with the bands of Teddy Wilson, Hal Kemp, Raymond Scott and others she gives a fetching account of Think It Over.
The melodic Old Fashioned Love which originated in the 1923 hit revue 'Runnin' Wild' is tastefully sung here by The Mills Brothers. 'Four Boys and a Guitar' was the subtitle familiar on most of their old Brunswick 78s. And brothers they really were in the early Thirties too - it was only John Junior's premature death in January 1936 that broke up the quartet for a while. His place was eventually filled by John Senior. On this recording John Junior provides the vocal 'oompah' bass line in addition to the guitar accompaniment. Herbert, Harry and Donald vocalise with one of the brothers breaking off with a tasteful trumpet imitation.
Teddy Wilson reappears with a studio band including his then boss, Benny Goodman, on clarinet. Goodman had obviously sanctioned the use of his regular vocalist Helen Ward on the session though for contractual reasons she appears as 'Vera Lane' on the record labels. Here's Love In Your Eye, with Helen on a Billie Holiday kick, is one of those records that turns out just right in every way - see if you don't agree.
Anita O'Day was with Gene Krupa's orchestra from 1941-43, rejoining in 1945 after a stint with Stan Kenton. In the later Forties and since she has established herself as one of the most durable of jazz singers. Anita's partner on Two In Love is Johnny Desmond, later to go on to wider acclaim as the main singer with Glenn Miller's Army Air Force Orchestra. Gene Krupa himself formed his own first rate band after a tiff with Benny Goodman early in 1938 and ran it for five years until he was jailed on a narcotics charge. Upon his release, he worked for Tommy Dorsey and even his old boss Benny Goodman before forming a new band in 1944.
The career and magic of Judy Garland cannot be summed up in a few words. Suffice to say that she was a giant of show business and despite her erratic personal and professional life excelled as a live performer and on the screen. A Journey To A Star was one of the big hit songs of 1943/44. Glenn Miller's orchestra remains even yet the most popular big band of all time. Unlike his contemporaries, who specialised in swing numbers, Miller concentrated on ballads. Additionally, and most importantly, he created a new sound that centred on five reeds (one clarinet and four saxophones). His disappearance on a flight over the English Channel in December 1944 has done nothing to detract from the legend. Dorothy Lamour is best remembered for her screen appearances, especially in the famous 'Road' films with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Her languorous singing style can be heard to good effect on The Man I Love, a fitting close to this collection of love songs.
HUGH PALMER 1994