Mannie Klein’s birthday party (1933) and Bobby Hackett’s “Embraceable You” (1939)

Trumpeter Mannie Klein (pictured above in 1973), was born in New York City on February 4, 1908. The silent film presented below was shot at his 25th birthday party on February 4, 1933. As you will see, it contains many notable musicians. (I can identify, in addition to Mannie Klein, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Jerry Colonna and Lennie Hayton.) They all worked together in the early 1930s in the Manhattan radio and recording studios, and made a great deal of money doing it. In addition, there are many pretty ladies (the one sitting next to Jerry Colonna is his wife Flo), a lot of smoking and drinking, fooling around and clowning for the camera. The first part of the film, presumably the cocktail hour, includes much kissing and provocative posing. Watching this is an exercise in voyeurism, twenty years before Alfred Hitchock’s Rear Window. Later, the partiers are seated at a dining table. It is in this segment that we see Jerry Colonna and Jimmy Dorsey affecting a monocle, Tommy Dorsey barking, Lennie Hayton bowing, and other revelry.

It is my hope that the visitors to swingandbeyond.com will be able to identify more of the people in this film. If you are able to do so, please post your identifications. History will be richer for it.

The story: Here is some background on Mannie Klein, and the work situations in which he found himself in the period from roughly 1930 to 1965. In the early 1930s, the top of the world in Manhattan for a musician was not the New York Philharmonic, or the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; it was in one of the orchestras (really a pool of musicians) then maintained by the two major radio networks, the National Broadcasting Company, NBC, or the Columbia Broadcasting System, CBS. Those two networks sought out, hired, and paid very well, the finest musicians in the country. In exchange, these musicians constituted a sort of musical meritocracy. They were given the opportunity to do as much work as was humanly possible, but were always expected to perform at the top of their ability, no matter what the musical context or situation (impeccable sight-reading was a given), morning, noon, or night, seven days a week, 365 days a year, as scheduled, on-air.

Mannie Klein – 1930.

This rather bizarre work environment had its pluses and minuses for the musicians involved in it. On the plus side, a musician could make unheard-of sums of money, if he simply showed up when scheduled, and played whatever music was required, flawlessly, on the air, after a minimum of rehearsal. On the negative side, the pressure and eventual drudgery of doing this for any period of time was tremendous and corrosive, especially to the skills required to play jazz.

The epitome of the studio musician then, and for the next forty years, first in New York, later in Hollywood, was the trumpeter Emmanuel “Mannie” Klein (1908–1994, pictured above left in 1930). He had the uncanny ability to do exactly whatever any conductor in any situation demanded, perfectly, on the first try. He was completely capable of playing first trumpet, straight melodic solos, or quite acceptable jazz solos. As a result, he was the first-call trumpeter for every conductor he ever worked with, both on radio and recordings (later also on films and television).

“Mighty Marg” – trumpeter Charlie Margulis – mid-1930s.

He was, for almost his entire professional career, the highest paid studio musician in the nation. He always had much more work than he could handle, and as a result, was required very frequently to send substitutes, almost always for the many rehearsals required by network radio (later television) or recording studio conductors. He would then simply show up later for the live broadcast (or recording session), play perfectly, and race off to the next broadcast/recording session. His subs were kept busy rehearsing, while he was overwhelmed playing live broadcasts and recording sessions.

In the early 1930s, Mannie astutely allied himself with one of the best first trumpeters in New York, Charlie Margulis (pronounced like marvelous, and pictured above right in the mid-1930s), the legendary “Mighty Marg” from Paul Whiteman’s orchestra of the 1920s. The two of them played any music in any situation for any conductor under any circumstances, with little or no rehearsal. Margulis played lead, and Mannie played whatever solos were required, including the jazz. In this way, they were able not to exhaust themselves while playing literally dozens of radio broadcasts and studio recording sessions each week. Together, they made an unbeatable duo, and each earned huge sums of money.

Mannie Klein and Conrad Gozzo – on one of the hundreds of recording dates they played together.

In late 1937, Mannie moved from New York to Hollywood, where, with his brother Dave Klein, he also began operating as a musical contractor, gathering the musicians required by conductors for thousands of ad hoc broadcasts and recording sessions over the next twenty-five years, in addition to continuing his work as a peerless session man himself. After World War II, he formed a new alliance with the great first trumpeter Conrad Gozzo, and replicated in Hollywood the success of his earlier alliance with Charlie Margulis in New York. (Klein and Gozzo appear in the photo at left.) Utterly reliable over a professional career spanning more than five decades, alcohol, except at parties, never played a part in Mannie Klein’s life.

As an example of how beautifully Mannie played, here is a recording he made in 1960 with Glen Gray, who was leading a band of Hollywood studio musicians who were alumni of swing era bands in recording tributes to the great musicians of the swing era. This one, a performance of George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” was a salute to the wonderful jazz cornetist Bobby Hackett.

“Embraceable You”

Composed by George Gershwin; arranged by Bobby Hackett.

Recorded by Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in the fall of 1960 for Capitol Records in Hollywood.

Glen Gray, conducting: Conrad Gozzo, first trumpet; Pete Candoli, Shorty Sherock, Uan Rasey, Mannie Klein, trumpets; Milt Bernhart, Joe Howard, Ed Kusby, George Roberts, trombones; Arthur “Skeets” Herfurt, first alto saxophone; Arcuiso “Gus” Bivona, alto saxophone; Irving “Babe” Russin and Julie Jacob, tenor saxophones; Chuck Gentry, baritone saxophone; Ray Sherman, celeste/piano; Jack Marshall, guitar; Meyer “Mike” Rubin, bass; Nick Fatool, drums.

Below is a photo of Glen Gray joking with Gus Bivona (left) and Skeets Herfurt on the recording date that produced “Embraceable You.”

Glen Gray, left, shares a joke with Gus Bivona and Skeets Herfurt at a recording session.

And for the sake of comparision, here is the original Bobby Hackett recording:

“Embraceable You”

Composed by George Gershwin; arranged by Bobby Hackett.

Recorded by Bobby Hackett and His Orchestra for Vocalion on April 13, 1939 in New York.

Bobby Hackett, cornet, directing: Jack Thompson, first trumpet; Sterling Bose, trumpet; George Troup, trombone; Louis Colombo, first alto saxophone; Bernie Billings, Charles E.”Pee Wee” Russell, Ernesto “Ernie” Caceres, saxophones; Dave Bowman, celeste/piano; Eddie Condon, guitar; Sid Jacobs, bass; Don Carter, drums.

Bobby Hackett – his playing was always beautiful.

The music: “George Gershwin wrote “Embraceable You” for Ginger Rogers, who sang it in her first starring role on Broadway in Girl Crazy in 1930. This show is also remembered for introducing the brassy Ethel Merman, who blasted her way through another Gershwin song in the show, “I Got Rhythm.” “Embraceable You” is an excellent collaboration between George Gershwin, and his brother Ira, who wrote the sentimental yet affecting lyric.

Bobby Hackett (pictured above right) had recorded “Embraceable You” with his good friend and frequent musical associate, Eddie Condon, with a jazz group in early 1938. Hackett was unsatisfied with his performance on that recording, and recorded it again in 1939 after he had organized his own band. “I arranged it myself,” he told a researcher in 1970, “…because I couldn’t afford to hire a professional arranger.” He needn’t have worried about that. This simple setting for his rich-toned cornet provided him with a perfect showcase for this relaxed yet stimulating performance. (1)

Robert Leo “Bobby” Hackett, born on January 31, 1915, in Providence, Rhode Island, was influenced by both Bix Beiderbecke, to me always his greatest influence, and Louis Armstrong, his greatest inspiration. His playing was always warm and gentle, like Hackett himself, but interesting from a jazz standpoint. (Hackett also played guitar and consequently had a marvelous chord sense.) After going broke leading a big band in the late 1930s, he worked as a featured soloist in a number of big bands, most notably Glenn Miller’s, where he was well presented on a number of classic recordings, including “A String of Pearls,” andRhapsody in Blue.” Hackett’s post-big- band career was successful because he was frequently employed as a soloist on recordings, and also often led bands of various sizes playing his unique brand of relaxed jazz. Bobby Hackett died June 7, 1976, in Chatham, Massachusetts.

(1) The Swing Era 1938-1939, Time-Life Books (1970), 56. Notes on the music by Joseph Kastner.

The recordings used in this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

I must thank MrJazzChops1 for posting the unique historical document that captured Mannie Klein’s birthday in 1933 on You Tube.

 

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