The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2005, Volume 12, #11
Written by John Metzger
The passage of time frequently has left Tommy Dorsey standing within the shadows of both Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, but the fact of the matter is that, in his day, Dorsey was enormously successful, so much so that until the advent of rock ’n‘ roll in the hands of Elvis Presley, he was RCA Victor’s biggest-selling artist. Celebrating the 100th year since his birth, the three-CD box set The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing: Centennial Collection provides a solid overview of his illustrious career, with two notable exceptions: First, many of his biggest and best-known hits are absent, and, second, his work with older brother Jimmy in The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra is shortchanged by the inclusion of only a trio of tracks [My Melancholy Baby, Sing (It’s Good for Ya), and Mean to Me].
In other words, The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing: Centennial Collection essentially is geared towards those who want to obtain a better understanding of what made Dorsey tick by delving a little deeper into his impressive catalogue. By highlighting his formative work between 1925 and 1934 when he performed, often alongside his brother, as a trombonist and trumpeter in an array of outfits that included those fronted by Bing Crosby (How Deep Is the Ocean?), Paul Whiteman (It Won’t Be Long Now), Red Nichols (Hallelujah), and Hoagy Carmichael (Moon Country), the opening disc’s 25 selections provide the perfect set-up for the latter portion of the collection. As for the second and third acts, they effectively demonstrate, through a series of studio and live broadcast recordings that span the final 20 years of his life, how superbly Dorsey brought his initial sojourns to fruition with his own ensemble. In that time, he worked with the legendary Duke Ellington (Take the ‘A’ Train, Tonight I Shall Sleep, and The Minor Goes Muggin’) as well as a young Elvis Presley (Heartbreak Hotel), and he based his material around the arrangements of Sy Oliver while assembling bands that showcased a myriad of top-notch musicians, such as Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Bunny Berigan, and Bud Freeman. There’s little doubt that, at times, Dorsey’s fiercely competitive drive cost his music some of its urgency and passion — the feisty, Louis Armstrong-influenced At the Fat Man’s and the broiling swing of Dippermouth Blues, notwithstanding. However, on the whole, the intensity of his focus also lent an indisputable dose of impeccable precision to the entirety of his output, and the end result was that his endeavors were inalienably reliable. ½
Of Further Interest...
The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing: Centennial Collection is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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