Search - Jan Savitt & Top Hatters :: Live 1938

Live 1938
Jan Savitt & Top Hatters
Live 1938
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #1


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All Artists: Jan Savitt & Top Hatters
Title: Live 1938
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Jazz Hour CD
Release Date: 8/21/1994
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Jazz, Pop
Styles: Swing Jazz, Dance Pop
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 008591102424

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CD Reviews

Yo! Philly! Remeber this guy?
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Ask any Philadelphian which radio station to tune to for a weather forecast, sports coverage, or general news, and you'll invariably get one answer: KYW. Although it's now a Group W all-news outlet like WINS in New York, in the '30s KYW had an in-house band. The station's 1937 headquarters is still standing at 1619 Walnut Street, and I marvel at the echoes of the ghosts still playing in what was once studio "A" up on the fourth floor. The head ghost was one Jan Savitt, evidently a charming little guy who led a tragically short life. Strolling a few steps away will bring you to South Broad Street and the stretch of bronze stars mortared into the sidewalk that constitutes the City of Brotherly Love's musical "Walk of Fame." Charlie Ventura's there. So are Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Kitty Kallen. Eddie Lang has a well-deserved star, but Joe Venuti still doesn't. (His gravestone in Holy Cross cemetery is pretty cool, though.) Even Ed McMahon is there. But Jan Savitt's nowhere in evidence along the walk. That's kind of ironic. He was one of the youngest members ever to play in the Philadelphia orchestra. He had a little to do with helping fledgling KYW to become a household word around here. His was the featured band at the Arcadia Restaurant, which used to be in the Widener building, just a Tastykake's throw away from the Walk. And he gave the spotlight to a handsome, articulate African American, George Tunnell, as his vocalist. (Known as Bon Bon, George Tunnell hasn't got a star on the Walk, either.) This CD crystallizes a few moments in this city's musical history. "Hi-Fi" is a relative term for 60+-year- old recordings. Archivist Ed Burke, who has done yeoman's service in preserving some very rare swing, has managed to squeeze every last drop of sound out of two extremely rare broadcast performances. The first 10 tracks are from a broadcast out of the Arcadia restaurant. The first track after the intro, "Tell Me with Your Kisses," is an upbeat swing tune composed by Savitt. There is a good trumpet solo at the beginning that sounds like Johnny Austin. (Glenn Miller grabbed Austin for some early recordings, but musically hog-tied the man by stuffing a mute into his horn. He did the same thing to Charlie Spivak in the '40s.) Bon Bon gets in one of his light, bright vocals on "My Own," and a rich, mellow one on "Change Partners." Except for Fred Astaire's, this may be the very best reading down of this tune from the film "Carefree." Carlotta Dale, one of the very best of the '30s vocalists, has excellent vocals on "I'm in a Fog about You" and "I Won't Tell a Soul I Love You." The latter is an especially good tune for her rather dramatic-sounding voice. The band's shuffle rhythm suits "Lambeth Walk" nicely, as does the dulcet alto sax solo. The remaining nine tracks, from a studio broadcast, contain a few surprises even for the few aficionados of this band. "I Married an Angel" is a good medium-tempo instrumental. "Heart and Soul" is just the right kind of tune for Carlotta Dale. Her phrasing is hard to beat and her style highly individual and very late '30s. (It's the kind of sophisticated voice you expect to hear from a screen star, vaguely like Karen Akers'.) "What Goes on Here in My Heart," is classic Savitt. The piano intro, muted brass melodic line, trombone scoring behind the solos, and low-register saxophone ride out with open brass fanfare. "No Wonder, " a tune written by Savitt, is another fine instrumental, and goes to show the workmanship he put into his arrangements. It is also, however, a very similar arrangement to the one on "What Goes on Here in My Heart" and "I Married an Angel." If this band had a weakness, it was that the line between stylistic and formulaic sometimes got blurred. Savitt's may not have been the most innovative of the swing bands, but it was a sparkling, tasteful, and often quite distinctive outfit. This CD offers some of what little that remains of a band that has been all but forgotten in its hometown. Yes, there was music in Philadelphia before Frankie Avalon, before the Geator, and before WFIL. But what about Ed McMahon? What was he up to on the music scene in 1938? Rumor has it that he was employing his voice to entice theatergoers to buy popcorn and peanuts. Must have been pretty musical to merit a star on the Walk. Too bad no recordings survive."