Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Big John Special '49
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Broadway & Vocalists
Listen to Samples
No strings attached
Robert C. Topper | Richardson, Texas | 07/08/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A fine collection of transcriptions the James band did for the Navy in 1949, some including the introductory announcements. Featured are Harry James (of course) and Willie Smith on alto, as well as a number of Neal Hefti arrangements. Even though these were done in '49, there is almost no bop to be heard, but then Harry James always seemed immune to the bebop bug. Interesting to compare is the version of "Down by the Station" heard here with the more gimmicky one done about the same time by Tommy Dorsey, demonstrating that James never left swing behind. While there are some vocals to be heard, and it's nice to hear a vocal version of "Body and Soul", the singers are definitely second-class citizens on this CD. My major complaint is that many of the cuts are too short, several barely over two minutes, some of them sounding as if their endings were improvised. On the plus side, no string section anywhere near. "Cherry" sounds so much better this way."
A wonderful addition to the Harry James legacy
Robert Badgley | London,Ontario,Canada | 07/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is indeed a wonderful addition to the legacy that belongs to one of THE greatest trumpet players ever to grace a stage.
I have been intrigued for years of the band that Harry led in the late 40s.I first got hooked on it through a CD on the Four Star label called "Things ain't what they used to be".If you can find this bargain priced CD I recommend that AND this as two companions that should never be too far from one another.They both fill a large gap that has for too long been extant.Some titles were repeated on the CDs but to my delight only about two songs are the exact same,the others being alternate versions from different dates!!And the sound on "Big John Special" is quite better than the other one,the Cedar process being utilized very nicely.
When I listened to these songs I ALWAYS harken back to Artie Shaw and his contention that it was HE and Goodman and Dorsey that were the real innovators in the bigband era.Well I've listened to alot of Shaw material from this time period and I can say without reservation that he had absolutely nothing on James.His recordings of that period are just plain dull,no life at all.He seemd to be on a never ending treadmill musically that went no where.While on the other hand James' band/tunes literally jump out and grab you by the short hairs and command your attention.Be-bop was the newest thing in the late 40s and Harry was one of the few bandleaders that was out there incorporating that influence into his music thanks to arrangements by the likes of Neil Hefti(later known for writing the theme to TVs "Batman").
This CD conatins some James perennials like 'Cherry' and 'Two O'clock Jump' along with some wonderful ballads like 'Stardust' and 'Body and Soul'.Along for the ride in the vocal department are his group of the time the Skylarks along with Art Lund,Kitty Kallen and his own sax wonderkind Willie Smith.But the REAL kicks to me are numbers like 'Block Party','Lamond and Mon' and 'Rank Frank'.These are wonderful frenetically paced ditties that
at first listen have you in amazement at the musicianship,tightness and skill of the band and James HOT trumpet solos which defy description.
This English compilation tries a broad and more even approach in its'release of material here.I was hoping for more of the frenetic paced material seen more often in its' glory on the bargain priced CD I mentioned previously.But that is a minor complaint when one looks at the overall package contained herein.
A great CD,a GREAT band and a GREAT trumpet man,Harry James."