“In a Persian Market” (1939) Larry Clinton and (1971) Billy May and the Swing Era Orchestra

“In a Persian Market”

Composed by Albert W. Ketelbey; arranged by Larry Clinton.

Recorded by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra for Victor on June 7, 1939 in New York.

Larry Clinton,directing: Steve Lipkins, first trumpet; Walter Smith and James Sexton, trumpets; Nat Lobovsky, first trombone; Ford Leary and Joe Ortolano, trombones; Mike Doty, first alto saxophone; Fred Fellensby, alto saxophone; Leo White and Woolf (Tannenbaum) Tayne, tenor saxophones; Bill Straub, piano; Jack Chesleigh, guitar; Hank Wayland, bass; Henry Adler, drums.

The story:In a Persian Market” is a piece of light classical music for orchestra with optional chorus by the English composer, conductor and pianist Albert Ketèlbey who composed it in 1920. Subtitled Intermezzo Scene, it was published in 1921.Originally, it evoked exotic images of camel-drivers, jugglers, and snake-charmers. When it was first published in a version for piano, it was advertised as an “educational novelty.”

The music: Arranger, sometime trumpeter and trombonist, and the leader of a band during the swing era, Larry Clinton recalled “In a Persian Market” from his childhood. But when he pondered how to approach this tune in the late 1930s, he had been immersed in the music of the swing era for several years. First, he wrote arrangements for the very successful Casa Loma band, then for Tommy Dorsey’s band, which in the late 1930s was a quite capable swing unit that played a wide variety of music. Clinton scored a number of hits for TD, including “The Dipsy Doodle,” and “Satan Takes a Holiday.” Bunny Berigan made a memorable recording of Clinton’s “A Study in Brown” in 1937. In late 1937, Clinton began leading his own band.

Larry Clinton – 1939.

Larry Clinton’s arrangement on “In a Persian Market” is excellent. It contains several different musical sonorities contrasted successfully with each other; there are tricky brass cut-offs followed by silences; there are bursts of brass and drums, and a tenor saxophone solo, all set in a sequence that leads to an exciting tutti climax.

The band of musicians Clinton led to record this arrangement was full of first-rate swing era performers. I am struck by the fact that the Clinton band that made this recording contained four key musicians who the previous year had all been members of Bunny Berigan’s very swinging band: the lead players Steve Lipkins on trumpet, Nat Lobovsky on trombone, and Mike Doty on alto sax, and the strong bassist Hank Wayland. The performance by the Clinton band of “In a Persian Market” is excellent, and it swings, after a fashion.

Clinton was a fine arranger and a very efficient bandleader. He definitely knew how to rehearse a band and get the music out of the musicians at optimum levels in performance. He was also a smart guy who knew that bandleading was a business, and that the swing band phenomenon would not last forever. He therefore did all the things successful bandleaders did, including making records, touring, and broadcasting, made sure that the business side of his band was always properly managed, took the money he earned, and then essentially retired from music. Clinton’s various bands were beautifully rehearsed and disciplined. As a result, they were able to record over two hundred sides for Victor and Bluebird in the four year period from the fall of 1937 to the fall of 1941, when Clinton gave up full-time bandleading.

Larry Clinton (L) and drummer Henry Adler – 1939.

“In a Persian Market” was the last of four tunes the Clinton band recorded on June 7, 1939. Despite the overall high quality of their performance of it, there are nevertheless some odd moments in this recording. The tenor saxophone solo, played by Woolf Tayne, is a fairly good improvisation, but that is diminished by his wavy vibrato and a couple of questionable notes at the end of his solo. Also, the blend of instruments in the coda sounds a bit out of tune to my ears. And the drumming, by Henry Adler, later to become something of a guru/teacher for many drummers, who leans into the beat, is technically correct, but not the acme of swing. 

Lead trumpeter Steve Lipkins.

On the other hand, guitarist Jack Chesleigh and bassist Hank Wayland do swing, and the brilliant transition the band plays between the first chorus (led by Steve Lipkins’s trumpet), and the tricky second chorus, are wonderfully arranged and beautifully performed. Lastly, Clinton’s use of unison trumpets toward the end of the climax of this arrangement, was an inspired touch, one that was not much utilized in swing bands in 1939.

When Clinton listened to the playback of this recording in the studio, he balanced the pluses and minuses, and elected not to make another take to perhaps correct the blemishes. Despite these blemishes, this recording is quite spirited, and has considerable period charm.

“In a Persian Market”

Recorded by Billy May and the Swing Era Orchestra for Capitol in Hollywood on February 22, 1971.

Larry Clinton’s arrangement was transcribed by Billy May.

Billy May, directing: John Audino, first trumpet; John M. Best, Clarence F. “Shorty” Sherock, Uan Rasey, trumpets; Richard T. “Dick” Nash, first trombone; Lloyd Ulyate, Francis “Joe” Howard, Lew McCreary, trombones; Lester A. “Les” Robinson, first alto saxophone; Abe Most, alto saxophone; Justin Gordon and Domenico LoGuidice (Don Lodice), tenor saxophones; Charles T. “Chuck” Gentry, baritone saxophone; Ray Sherman, piano; Jack Marshall, guitar; Rolly Bundock, bass; Nick Fatool, drums.

Drummer Nick Fatool – 1971.

The music: The performance of Larry Clinton’s arrangement by Billy May and the Swing Era Orchestra some thirty-two years after the Clinton band’s recording provides a marvelous contrast. The most vivid contrast is to be heard in the drumming. In this performance, that is done by Nick Fatool, one of the best drummers to emerge from the classic big bands of the swing era. After working with many top bands during the 1930s and 1940s, Fatool settled in Hollywood and had a long and successful career working in the recording and film studios there. Fatool’s use of his drums and cymbals here is indeed the acme of swing, and he carries the entire band along on his relaxed yet swinging rhythms.

Trumpeter John Audino – 1970s

Key in Larry Clinton’s arrangement of “In a Persian Market” are the parts he wrote for the first trumpet and the first alto saxophone. In this performance, we hear the brilliant first trumpet playing of John Audino (shown at right),, and the strong, swinging lead alto playing of Les Robinson throughout, both of which light-up this recording. Last but not least is the excellent tenor saxophone solo played by Don Lodice. These musicians, and their colleagues in this performance, all veterans of top swing bands, got this recording off the ground — way off. It swings mightily.

The recordings presented in this post were digitally transferred and remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

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  1. My favorite Larry Clinton recording, hands down.

    Though, if I may, I’d like to suggest a different source for the 1939 Larry Clinton recording – namely, my rich, robust transfer of a copy from my stash of 78’s.

    Here’s my transfer of Larry Clinton’s “In A Persian Market” of a clean, original 78rpm pressing on Victor 26283 if you’re interested:

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