“It’s All Yours”
Composed by Dorothy Fields and Arthur Schwartz; arranged by Paul Wetstein (Weston).
Recorded by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra for Victor on January 19, 1939 in New York.
Tommy Dorsey, first and solo trombone, directing: Andy Ferretti, first trumpet; Aniello Castaldo (Lee Castle), John “Yank” Lawson, trumpets; Ward Silloway, Elmer Smithers and Dave Jacobs, trombones; Arthur “Skeets” Herfurt, first alto saxophone; Freddie Stulce and John H. Muenzenberger (Johnny Mince), alto saxophones; Irving “Babe” Russin and Deane Kincaide, tenor saxophones; Howard Smith, piano; Carmine Mastrandrea (Carmen Mastren), guitar; Gene Traxler, bass, Dave Tough, drums; Edythe Wright, vocal.
I had the opportunity to speak at length with clarinetist Johnny Mince in 1986 at the Conneaut Lake Jazz Party. Mince joined Tommy Dorsey’s band in April of 1937, and remained with Tommy as his featured clarinetist until early 1941, shortly before he was drafted into the Army. In the four years Mince was in the TD band, its character changed at least three times. Initially, the band was a good dance band that featured ballads, Dixie-styled jazz, and some straight ahead swing. By the end of the 1930s, the band was still a good dance band, and it played smooth ballads even better than before, but by then had also evolved into a first-rate swing band. The third change came as the 1930s ended and the 1940s began with the advent of arranger Sy Oliver, drummer Buddy Rich, and the arrival of the young singer Frank Sinatra, who replaced Jack Leonard, Tommy’s very popular singer, who had been with the TD band for several years. As Mince so accurately put it: “Girls really liked Jack Leonard, but they went crazy for Frank. We couldn’t understand it. And the band swung before Buddy. But with Buddy, it was like a whole battalion of artillery had arrived. No one, and I mean no one, played faster or louder than Buddy, when he chose to play fast and loud.” (Above left: Tommy Dorsey in a rare quiet moment, around 1940.)
Mince recalled some of Rich’s predecessors as TD drummers: “There was a drummer named Moe Purtill. He was a very good drummer. When he came into Tommy’s band, he followed Dave Tough. Davey was just about everybody’s favorite drummer because he gave you a solid beat and stayed out of your way. Moe was a heavier player. Almost immediately, Tommy started to tell Moe: ‘Can’t you make it a little lighter?’ This kept going on and on until Moe was hardly playing at all. He was a nervous young kid with a top-flight band, and he wanted to stay there. Finally, Tommy told him: ‘Can’t you make it lighter, like Dave Tough?’ Moe took this, but backstage he was cursing Tommy – ‘If he wants Dave Tough, he can have him! I’m quitting!’ We calmed him down, but eventually he and Tommy came to a parting of the ways, and Dave Tough returned. He was playing great too.” (Above right: Dave Tough with Tommy Dorsey’s band – early 1939. Tommy is to the left. The trumpeter immediately behind Tough is Yank Lawson. To his right is Andy Ferretti.)
“In my career I’ve played with many great drummers, including Buddy Rich, of course. But I can say without reservation that the greatest drummer I ever played with was Dave Tough. His feel for time was incredible. No matter what he did, it swung. And he knew how to back soloists and lift a band. He played simply and never threw things off by trying to be flashy. He completely understood jazz rhythm and he applied what he knew perfectly in either a big band or a small group. He was only interested in making whatever group he was playing in sound better.”
“A couple of years ago, the people at RCA sent me tapes of a bunch of records Tommy’s band had made when I was a member. The series they were then producing was called The Complete Tommy Dorsey. They wanted me to listen to these things, then comment. I guess they didn’t realize how many records Tommy made for them because they stopped the series at the recordings we made in early 1939, and never used my comments. Well, there were dozens of tunes we recorded that I hadn’t heard in over 40 years. Two great examples of how wonderful a drummer Dave Tough was are ‘Milenberg Joys,’ and ‘It’s All Yours.’”
“The saxophone section in Tommy’s band then was tremendous. He had three excellent first alto men in the band, often at the same time: Hymie Shertzer, Skeets Herfurt, and Freddie Stulce. Babe Russin had replaced Bud Freeman on the jazz tenor chair, and he was playing up a storm. Babe was also an exceptionally fine section man. He and Skeets went to Hollywood after World War II, and for many years were first call guys on their respective instruments. Deane Kincaide and I were the other members of the reed section. I can tell you that playing in that section was an absolute joy, not work.” (Above: Tommy Dorsey’s band in action late spring 1939. Front L-R: TD in dark suit; Deane Kincaide, Johnny Mince, Freddie Stulce and Babe Russin. The guitarist is Carmen Mastren, the bassist is Gene Traxler. The trumpeters L-R are: Pee Wee Erwin, Andy Ferretti and Yank Lawson.)
“Tommy always had an excellent trumpet section. For most of the time I was there, Andy Ferretti played first trumpet. He was a really great lead man with a brilliant sound. He could swing the whole band from the first trumpet chair. My dear friend Pee Wee Erwin was Tommy’s jazz trumpet in 1937 and 1938. Pee Wee was replaced by Yank Lawson, who was also a wonderful soloist and great stylist.” (But then, Erwin returned, replacing Lee Castle.)
Tommy Dorsey, as anyone who knows anything about him is aware, was a most colorful personality. He thrived on the grandiose. He had a hilltop mansion in Bernardsville, New Jersey that was surrounded by a large estate of many acres. He would often bring home with him a dozen or so guests for impromptu parties, and for Sundays filled with barbecue, swimming and tennis. When he played a lengthy engagement at the Palmer House in Chicago, he noticed that the food served there was excellent. Before long, Tommy was on a first-name basis with the head chef at the Palmer House. When TD and his band left the Palmer House, he took the chef with him, and installed him at his Bernardsville home as the preparer of food for his family and guests.
Being the preeminent trombone virtuoso in popular music in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Tommy had instrument makers vying with each other to provide him with (and endorse) their trombones. He handled this as only he could. Trumpeter Pee Wee Erwin, who was in and out of TD’s band in the late 1930s, recalled: “The King Instrument Co. was kept busy replacing Tommy’s trombones or having him test new ones. He played either a King 2B or 3B, I’m not sure which, and he had a gold horn that he used as long as I was with him. Nevertheless, King kept sending him new instruments. One night, he brought one along to try out, blew about twelve notes on the thing, then put it on the floor and stepped on it. This was all part of his personality – he was saving anybody else from the ordeal of playing that particular trombone.” (1)
TD’s girl vocalist in the 1930s was Edythe Wright. Edythe was not only good-looking and could sing, she was also an extroverted person who drew people to her without doing anything other than being herself. Pee Wee Erwin and Edythe became good friends in the late 1930s when they were both in Tommy’s band. He remembered Edythe fondly: “I hit it of with Edythe pretty well – I’d even go so far as to say that I got along with her better than anyone else in the band. Edythe became almost like my brother, and I use the term ‘brother’ because it pretty well describes our relationship. We were great drinking buddies and just just good pals. Roberta (Pee Wee’s wife) and I made frequent visits to Edythe’s mother’s house. Her family lived in Highland Park, New Jersey, and we became very friendly with her mother, Mrs. Bradshaw, and her two brothers ansd several sisters. We began to spend every weekend there. I made a lot of friends from among Edythe’s friends. …(She) was a pretty darn good public relations promoter and made friends easily.” (2) Sports figures were enchanted by Edythe, as were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. and his wife Ethel Du Pont, and jazz critic Leonard Feather, among many others. When the Dorsey band played lengthy residencies at the Hotel Pennsylvania Roof, Edythe had her own table at the side of the band where she held court. In addition, she and Tommy had a spasmodic relationship that eventually led to Tommy’s divorce from his first wife Mildred “Toots” Dorsey. (Above right: Edythe Wright and Tommy Dorsey, 1938. Below left: Leonard Feather and Edythe, late 1930s.)
The song “It’s All Yours,” is from the Broadway show Stars in Your Eyes, which opened on February 9, 1939 at the Majestic Theater. The music was composed by Arthur Schwartz with the lyric by Dorothy Fields. The show closed on May 27, 1939. Clearly, the music publishers/song pluggers were at work promoting this song: this swinging performance was recorded on January 19, 1939, about three weeks before the show in which it would be featured would open.(3) TD’s Victor recording of this tune was released at approximately the same time as the show debuted.
The high-pressure sales tactics of the publishers are a separate matter from the quality of the music however. This song is an unpretentious celebration of late Depression era optimism swung mightily by Tommy’s band, with drummer Dave Tough at the center of the action. Johnny Mince’s comments above about the TD band that made this recording are precisely on-point. This performance presents a first-rate swing band firing on all cylinders.
After a bright but brief introduction, Tommy states the melody on his open trombone. Although in the late 1930s Dorsey was in the process of establishing his reputation as “The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing” by often playing slow ballads and muting his trombone with a solotone mute, the sound he got out of his open trombone was becoming more silky as the 1930s segued into the 1940s. That sound was equally effective playing melodies, as here, which are taken at a brisk tempo, as well as by playing ballads at slower tempi.(4) Here, TD plays the main melody against a background of rhythmic reeds, and drummer Tough, with sticks, playing on his closed high-hats. The brass, with straight mutes, take the bridge. In this segment, Tough plays his high-hats partially opened and held (damped) by his left hand, getting a dry sound in contrast with the edgy brass. When TD returns with the main melody, he is again backed as before. The brass, now open, romp through the secondary melody, being impelled once again by Tough’s high-hats.
A quick modulation brings Edythe Wright to the microphone. Though she was not a great singer, she was certainly a good one, who had enough vocal chops to take care of the musical basics. Her good looks and dynamic personality took care of the rest. Here she sings the lyric rather straight, though with undeniable swing, aided greatly by Tough’s backing. Listen to him clicking away on his closed high-hats. No one ever extracted more swinging rhythm from a set of high-hat cymbals than Dave Tough. A highlight comes in the electric interaction between Wright and Tough when she sings “the world’s your oyster ready to open…” and he explodes a right-left set of rim shots, followed immediately by two boots on his bass drum. No oyster has ever been opened with more panache. Tenor saxophonist Babe Russin, who is effectively levitated by Tough’s drumming, has the solo spots in the finale. (Above left: Edythe Wright and Babe Russin onstage – 1939.)
Fun onstage with Milton Berle – 1939: L-R: TD, Berle, Edythe Wright and Jack Leonard. Tommy Dorsey was a press agent’s dream because he was always open to any activity that would publicize his band. In the late 1930s, Edythe Wright was the instigator of many of these publicity stunts.
The recording presented in this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
(1) Pee Wee Erwin This Horn for Hire, as told to Warren W. Vache’, Sr. (1987), 160.
(2) Ibid. 157 and 160.
(3) Another excellent recording of this tune, by Artie Shaw, was made on January 31, 1939 for RCA Bluebird..
(4) For a great example of how Tommy Dorsey’s open trombone sounded on a ballad, check out this link:
Here is the romping TD recording of “Milenberg Joys” that was recorded at the same recording session that produced “It’s All Yours”:
And here is another great recording, this time by Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven, that includes inspired drumming from Dave Tough and a light-hearted vocal by Edythe Wright.: