“Dream of You”
Composer, lyricist and arranger, Sy Oliver.
Recorded by Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra for Decca on October 29, 1934.
Jimmie Lunceford, directing: Eddie Tompkins, Sy Oliver and Tommy Stevenson, trumpets; Henry Wells and Russell Bowles, trombones; Willie Smith, La Forest Dent, Joe Thomas and Earl Curruthers, saxophones; Eddie Wilcox, piano; Al Norris, guitar; Moses Allen, bass; Jimmie Crawford, drums.Vocal and trumpet solos by Sy Oliver.
The story: The Jimmie Lunceford band was one of the most popular of the swing era. Key ingredients to the band’s success were disciplined rehearsals, strong musicianship and enormous joi de vivre in its performances. Although there were many romping swing tunes in the Lunceford band’s repertoire (like “For Dancers Only,” “Annie Laurie,” and “The Lonesome Road,” among many others), the band’s subtle, dreamy ballads, typified by “Dream of You,” one of its earliest successes, were also a major reason why they were hired again and again by ballroom operators. Jimmie Lunceford himself (pictured above) rarely played any instruments with his band. Instead he recruited talented youngsters whom he molded into a powerful, unified, expressive performing unit. In addition to its musical virtues, the Lunceford band’s choreographed stage demeanor, most notably its tossing and waving of instruments, were audience-pleasing and imitated (by Glenn Miller, among others).
Lunceford also encouraged members of his band who could arrange to do so, and to compose original tunes. By far, the most successful of these composer/arrangers was Sy Oliver. Oliver, who composed, arranged, sang and played trumpet solos on “Dream of You,” was not only a talented performer. (Sy Oliver is picture at right.) His compositions and arrangements for the Lunceford band (from 1933 to mid-1939), and then for Tommy Dorsey for many years after that, frequently became enduring swing hits, indeed classic examples of the idiom. Oliver favored a two-beat rhythmic approach (2/4 meter), simple, direct orchestral writing, and primary, vivid instrumental colors.
In “Dream of You,” Oliver’s instrumental colors are subtle and warm, however. The introduction spots muted brass, and whispering clarinets over a simple rhythm. Then Oliver states the melody on his (pixie straight) muted trumpet (he is also employing a plunger mute over the bell of his horn), backed by clarinets playing in their low register. Trombonist Henry Wells plays the eight bar bridge on his open trombone against open brass chords for a delicate contrast. Oliver returns playing as before to finish the first chorus. The lovely descending transition into Oliver’s vocal chorus has the open brass instruments playing softly into derby mutes (surely a lost art).
Oliver’s intimate vocal is performed against the mellow low register saxophones and derby muted open brass. After the vocal concludes, trombonist Wells returns on the bridge, followed by Oliver on muted trumpet paraphrasing the main theme as the performance concludes.
I have found this melody to be both memorable, and hypnotic, but in a most pleasurable way. Sy Oliver and the Lunceford band proved conclusively with this recording that swing could be exquisitely soft. This is one of the early quiet gems in the swing tradition.
This recording was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.