“After You’ve Gone” (1936) Tommy Dorsey with Bud Freeman, Joe Dixon and Dave Tough

“After You’ve Gone”

Composed by Henry Creamer and Turner Layton; arranged by Paul Wetstein (Weston).

Recorded by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra for Victor on October 18, 1936 in New York.

Tommy Dorsey, first and solo trombone, directing: Steve Lipkins, first trumpet; Max Kaminsky and Joe Bauer, trumpets; Les Jenkins and Walter Mercurio, trombones;  Freddie Stulce, first alto saxophone; Joe Dixon, clarinet and alto saxophone; Clyde Rounds and Lawrence “Bud” Freeman, tenor saxophones; Dick Jones, piano; Carmen Mastren, guitar; Gene Traxler, bass; Dave Tough, drums.

The story:

By the end of 1936, Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra were, musically, a group to be reckoned with. Still, commercial success was slow in coming to them. After initially breaking with his brother Jimmy, rather dramatically, by stomping off the bandstand at Glen Island Casino in the middle of an engagement there very early in the summer season of 1935, then completing that gig under protest, Tommy had had to scuffle for about a year and a half.

Tommy walked away from the Dorsey  Brothers Orchestra because he wanted to be a bandleader who had his own band. He and Jimmy had formed the DBO early in 1934, and had built its personnel and library of arrangements painstakingly for over a year. They barnstormed, doing a lot of one‑nighters, hoping to promote themselves into something big. They finally got a break by being booked into Glen Island Casino for the summer 1935 season. Glen Island had been the site of some major radio exposure for the Casa Loma band in the early 1930s, and would launch Glenn Miller’s fame in the summer of 1939 via almost nightly broadcasts.

The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra – probably autumn 1934. L-R back row: the trombonist is Don Matteson, Ray McKinley, George Thow, Glenn Miller, Bobby Van Eps, Delmar Kaplan, Roc Hillman; middle: Arthur “Skeets” Herfurt, Jack Stacey, Jimmy Dorsey; front: Bob Crosby, Kay Weber, and Tommy Dorsey. This publicity photo was taken in one of the old NBC studio at 711 Fifth Avenue.(*)

Tommy had stood in front of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra for complex reasons then best known to the brothers. It now seems clear that Tommy projected a jovial warmth to audiences, and an ease at being the intermediary between the band and its audience, that Jimmy did not then have, and never really acquired. Tommy was a personality aside from being a musician. Jimmy’s personality, in reality warmer and sweeter than Tommy’s, just did not project to an audience. Jimmy frequently appeared ill-at-ease in front of a band. In addition, Tommy was a natural leader, and an aggressive ambitious one. By mid-1934, he was deeply involved in getting the DBO a contract with then then-new Decca Records. By the end of 1934, the band had recorded more that 60 sides for Decca. Tommy had initiated a number of personnel changes in the DBO in mid-1934. He sought out various arrangers to supply the band with a stream of new music. “…these developments were initiated by Tommy, who had for all intents and purposes taken over as the leader of the group. Jimmy …was more than content to let ‘the brother’ run things,”(1) …especially when ‘the brother’ was running everything so well!

So Tommy became the front-man for the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Jimmy, it seems, took perverse delight in goading Tommy about the fact that, as front‑man, he was  becoming a “star.” Whatever the case, Jimmy knew exactly which buttons to push to cause his temperamental brother to explode. One night, May 30, 1935, to be exact, Jimmy, from the saxophone section, questioned, with just the right amount of sarcasm, a tempo Tommy had set for the tune “I’ll Never Say Never Again.” Tommy simply took his trombone and left Glen Island Casino, and the band he had worked so hard to build. It would be about three years before he would exchange a civil word with his brother, even though, from early August, he worked out the rest of the Glen Island engagement, very much under protest, to avoid a lawsuit for breach of contract. The contract the brothers had signed with Glen Island Casino stipulated that both Dorsey brothers would be present with the band throughout their residency at that venue. During the latter stages of the Glen Island gig, it was clear that Tommy would be leaving the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. What was not clear is what he would do after he left.

Scuttling a successful band in the middle of a prime engagement did not exactly enhance Tommy’s employment possibilities as a bandleader.  Booking agents and ballroom owners were leery enough, with good reason often, of the unpredictable comings and goings of musicians. But, as subsequent events would prove, if ever someone was cut-out to be a bandleader, it was Tommy Dorsey. His proficiency in that demanding role was so great that it counterbalanced his sometimes mercurial behavior. The biggest obstacle to Tommy resuming his career as a bandleader in the summer of 1935 was that he had no band to lead.

Or did he? In the liner notes to The Complete Tommy Dorsey, Vol I/1935, RCA Bluebird AXM2-5521 (1976), writer Mort Goode interviewed a number of musicians who in mid-1935 were members of the Joe Haymes band. They all reported that after Tommy walked out of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, he immediately went to Walled Lake, Michigan, where the Haymes band was then playing a location job at a ballroom called the New Casino Pavillion, and took over the Haymes band on what turned out to be an interim basis. He evidently worked with the band at that location, began to add new arrangements to its book, and began to rehearse the men. It is quite possible that Joe Haymes returned to New York at this time. With TD actually leading his band during this two-month period,  there would have been nothing for him to do. Tommy then returned with the band to New York to an engagement in Manhattan. This must have been in late July or early August 1935.

Given these facts, and significantly, that Tommy signed a contract with Music Corporation of America (MCA), the largest and most powerful band booking agency during the swing era, in the summer of 1935, there seems to have been some preplanning involved in Tommy Dorsey’s move to become the leader of a band. MCA rather frequently took bands that had been established and operated by one of their bandleader clients, and, for various reasons, put another leader in front of them. MCA had been representing Joe Haymes for several years. Haymes had been a bandleader, with only middling success, through much of the early 1930s. He was excellent in some areas of bandleading, like finding talented musicians, rehearsing them into a professional-sounding band, and providing them with good arrangements to play. But he was not a dynamic front man, and he did not particularly involve himself in the business side of his band’s operation. Consequently, his bands, though always good musically, reached only a minimal level of commercial success, but never went higher. Before Tommy had signed any contract with MCA (the DBO and Jimmy Dorsey were represented by Rockwell-O’Keefe), MCA was well aware of who and what he was. Everyone in the band business knew that he was a superb trombonist. But more important from the standpoint of MCA, was that he had the leadership qualities that Joe Haymes lacked.

Almost immediately upon Tommy’s return to New York, he was threatened with a breach of contract lawsuit by the operators of Glen Island Casino. Tommy’s absence  from Glen Island throughout June and July, though irksome to the operators of the Casino, was not really damaging to their business because the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra without him had continued to do good business there and Tommy, being in Michigan, was not a competitive threat. But after he returned to New York with a band called Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, that was at least ostensibly competing with the Dorsey band at nearby Glen Island, they moved to require Tommy to honor his contract. He had no choice but to acquiesce. He then returned to work in sullen silence, one hour a night, with his brother to complete the DBO Glen Island residency, which ended on September 21. During that time, presumably, Joe Haymes returned to lead what had previously been his band.

There was one abortive attempt by the brothers’ agent, Cork O’Keefe,(2) to reconcile them in early August of 1935. The sole result of that was to get Tommy to appear with the DBO until the Glen Island Casino engagement was completed. At the conclusion of that gig, the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra became Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra. They then headed to Hollywood, and within a couple of months, snagged a great job, backing Bing Crosby on the Kraft Music Hall, a network radio program that Crosby brilliantly used to promote his successful movie and recording careers to even greater heights. With Bing Crosby, Jimmy’s future looked decidedly bright. For Tommy, the future was far less promising, though he finally had his own band to lead.

It is interesting to review the recording activity of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra for the period from May 30, 1935, when Tommy walked off the Glen Island Casino bandstand, until he made his first Victor records as Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra on September 26,1935. While he had been present on the Brothers’ May 27,1935 Decca session (the first to present the band’s new boy singer Bob Eberle, later changed to Eberly), he was not with the band, still billed as the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, at its August 1, and September 11th sessions. He was present at the August 14, 1935 session where the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra backed Bing Crosby. It can be safely assumed that Cork O’Keefe’s diplomacy was also required to bring this off. The next Decca session, on September 19, 1935, near the end of the Glen Island residency, was billed as Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra, with Tommy’s chair being filled by the young trombonist Bobby Byrne.

Joe Haymes and his band at the McAlpin Hotel in New York – possibly early 1935. Back row, L-R: Cliff Weston, Andy Ferretti, Sterling Bose, Charlie Bush, Mac Cheikes, Gene Traxler; middle: Joe Ortolano, Dave Jacobs, Paul Ricci, Toots Mondello, Bud Freeman, Paul Mitchell. The violinist and girl vocalist are unknown to me. Haymes in in front.

It is also interesting to note that the Joe Haymes band recorded in New York for American Record Corp. (ARC) on August 12, 1935, without Tommy participating. They also did a Thesaurus transcription session on September 4th, again without Tommy. There is some confusion surrounding two other Thesaurus dates recorded by the Haymes band around this same time, and whether the band that made those recordings was the same band that Tommy took over, or an entirely new Haymes band. My informed speculation is that the recordings made in the summer of 1935 by the Joe Haymes band were made by the same musicians Haymes had been using for some time before that. However, by December 19, 1935, Joe Haymes was again recording for ARC, but with an almost entirely new band.

By late September Tommy had finally taken over the Joe Haymes band completely. It appears that Haymes had continued to stay with the band upon its return to New York around August 1 and act as its leader, pending a final divorce of Tommy from the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, which occurred on September 21, 1935. After Tommy permenantly took over the Haymes musicians, he immediately began rehearsing them for their first Victor recording session, which took place only five days later. Then, the new Tommy Dorsey band broke-in in front of audiences at an an engagement at the French Casino, Seventh Avenue at 50th Street, in Manhattan. From there, they began touring, and making recordings in New York fairly often.

Among the dozen or so Haymes musicians who eventually became members of Tommy’s band, there were some who were very good. Lead alto saxophonist Noni (Ernani) Bernardi, was also an arranger. He sketched the simple and effective background for Tommy’s trombone on “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” which of course was Tommy’s theme song, and is now one of the sacred relics of the swing era. It was initially recorded by TD for Victor on September 26, 1935, but was not issued. The classic recording we all know was made on October 18, 1935. Then there was bassist Gene Traxler. Standing several inches over six feet, and exuding an air of serenity, his plangent bass tones would anchor the Dorsey ensemble for the next four and a half tumultuous years. There was also a good jazz trumpeter, Sterling Bose. Also making the move were saxophonist Clyde Rounds, clarinetist Sid Stoneburn, and trombonist Dave Jacobs. Jacobs would remain with TD off and on for many years as a fill-in trombonist, and/or copyist. Trombonist/arranger Ben Pickering also joined TD.

But the most significant musician to join Tommy vis-a-vis the musical future of the early Tommy Dorsey band, was a Dartmouth graduate, Phi Beta Kappa, named Paul Wetstein. Wetstein had joined the Haymes band at the McAlpin Hotel in early 1935. As Paul Weston, he would write far more arrangements for the TD band, many of them classics, than any of the other numerous and talented arrangers who would come into Tommy’s employ before 1940. (At right: Paul Weston.)

With this nucleus, and a few additions, Tommy felt the band was at least passably ready to make some records. W.T. “Ed” Kirkeby, who was then an A and R man (producer) at Victor Records, and who, since May of 1935, had been guiding Fats Waller’s career at Victor, knew Tommy from years earlier when he (Kirkeby) had recorded with him in a group called The California Ramblers. Kirkeby used his pull at Victor to help Tommy secure his first Victor record contract. (The Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra, Cork O’Keefe, Bing Crosby, Bing’s brother Bob and his band, and later Jimmy Dorsey, were all either contracted to Jack and Dave Kapp’s Decca Records, or were otherwise affiliated with Decca.)

As noted above, Tommy also broke with the Rockwell-O’Keefe Booking Agency and Cork O’Keefe, who represented his brother (and all of the other above-said artists) in the summer of 1935, and signed with Music Corporation of America, the agency that had recently taken on Benny Goodman in an effort to establish a foothold in the new “swing” market. Prior to that, MCA had almost exclusively represented leaders of “sweet” bands, typified by Guy Lombardo. By the time TD severed his relationship with MCA some 15 years later, he had threatened almost everyone at MCA at least once, and according to Bud Freeman, had on one occasion (when he wanted his band presented on his own network radio show) taken a fire axe into MCA President Jules Stein’s office and calmly stated he was going to reduce Mr. Stein’s desk to firewood unless he got what he wanted. (Eventually, he got what he wanted.) He also had made MCA a lot of money in commissions and fees.(3)

The recording session of September 26 was TD’s first for Victor. The band, certainly not yet distinctive, played with spirit and remarkable precision. As swing era journalist George T. Simon so aptly put it: “Tommy, who was soon to  achieve fame as The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing, was a fighter ‑  often a very belligerent one ‑ with a sharp mind, an acid tongue, and intense pride. He had complete confidence in himself.”(3) But still, in the autumn of 1935, Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra had a lot of dues to pay.

In the waning months of 1935, Tommy continued to improve the personnel of his band. He seemed to like to acquire musicians in groups from other bands. Later, when the individual players in big bands were known to the general public, this ploy became known as “raiding.” From the beginning, Tommy raided other bands with great panache.

From the Bert Block band, a local New York outfit, he took, in early 1936, the handsome and personable vocalist Jack Leonard, and trumpeters Odd Stordahl and Joe Bauer. Stordahl, as Axel Stordahl, developed a very deft touch as an arranger of ballads with Tommy, and later worked very closely and successfully with Frank Sinatra. Leonard, Bauer, and Stordahl also sang together as The Three Esquires. As such, they would make at least  one major contribution to the TD legend: their recording of “Once In A While” ( 07/21/37).

At the start of 1936, Tommy began the process of musical chairs that would cause literally dozens of musicians to pass through his band in the two or three years to follow. His goal was not only to make the band musically stronger in a technical sense, but also of course to make it capable of swinging and playing good jazz.

Early in 1936 trumpeters Andy Ferretti and Sterling Bose left. Ferretti, who was a highly regarded lead trumpeter, went to Bob Crosby’s band. In the next few years, he would return many times to the  Dorsey fold. Bose, a capable jazz player, went to Ray Noble’s band. Their replacements were Sam Skolnick on lead and Max Kaminsky on jazz trumpet. Max made some very good records with TD, including “Rhythm Saved the World” (03/27/36), with the Clambake  Seven, a dixie-oriented band within the band, and “Royal Garden Blues” (04/03/36) and “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” (11/24/36), with the band. In his long career, Max was consistently underrated by the critics. Nevertheless, he always kept good musical company, and played good jazz.

There was a major shakeup in the saxophone section too. Ultimately, Freddie Stulce, a Southern Methodist University, graduate from Dallas, ended up playing lead alto. He also arranged. He would remain a part of the TD sound, through some rough weather, until the early months of World War II. Joe Dixon (real name Giuseppe Ischia), a good young clarinetist from Boston, came in to play some jazz. Most significantly, tenor saxophonist Lawrence “Bud” Freeman, one of the legendary free spirits of jazz, and a vivid instrumental voice, anchored the jazz tenor duties. Bud arrived around April 15, 1936. He had been in the Joe Haymes band in 1934, but then (at Glenn Miller’s behest) had joined Ray Noble’s band at the Rainbow Room atop the then-RCA Building (now the Comcast Building aka 30 Rock) in Rockefeller Center in New York. In the Noble band, Freeman had worked with clarinetist Johnny Mince and trumpeter George “Pee Wee” Erwin, both of whom would eventually follow him into the Dorsey band. He had also worked with Glenn Miller, about whom he told me some very funny stories, all of which centered around Glenn’s drinking. (Per Bud:”…Glenn was hostile when he drank. But he stopped drinking and channeled all of that hostility into making himself a great bandleader.”) Bud’s close friend, Dave Tough, had joined TD in March on drums. In time, guitarist Carmen Mastren would also come aboard. He too could arrange. For good measure, Tommy also often employed the services of arranger Dick Jones, who was the band’s pianist from late 1935 to early 1937. No doubt, by mid‑1936, Tommy Dorsey had developed a very good all-around band. That had been precisely his goal.

Tommy Dorsey and his band while they were appearing at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey, July 7 – 12, 1936. L-R back: Dave Tough, Dick Jones, Sam Skolnick, Jack Leonard, Gene Traxler, Joe Dixon, Joe Bauer, Bud Freeman, Axel Stordahl, Ben Pickering; front: Carmen Mastren, Clyde Rounds, TD, Edythe Wright, Freddie Stulce, Walter Mercurio, Max Kaminsky.

In assessing the strengths of the early Tommy Dorsey band, several amazing facts emerge. First, no doubt to facilitate the versatility Tommy strove for, he regularly utilized no less than five arrangers: Weston, Stordahl, Mastren, Stulce, and Jones. The TD book also had arrangements from outsiders like Benny Carter and Fletcher Henderson. Most bandleaders relied on one chief arranger, and maybe used one or two others, occasionally buying a novelty or swing original from an outside arranger.(4) Second, Tommy had an equally impressive squadron of singers: Edythe Wright, whom Tommy had hired very soon after he got his own band, and Jack Leonard, both of whom were featured; Joe Bauer and Axel Stordahl, Leonard’s cohorts as The Three Esquires; and random vocals from other  band members. Edythe, who had been with the band from its first recording session, was capable of delivering the up tempo items and novelties, with both the band and the Clambake Seven. She also sang ballads. Jack Leonard became the crooner of romantic ballads. Both singers were good-looking, talented, and effective. They became audience favorites. Third, the Clambake Seven, playing basically two‑beat semi‑dixie, semi‑swing on mostly novelty tunes, existed on record from at least December 1935, when it recorded “The Music Goes ‘Round and Around” (12/09/35) and “One Night In Monte Carlo” (12/21/35).  Presumably, it appeared in person from about the same time. (The Benny Goodman trio would not appear publicly until mid‑1936. Maybe TD was the originator of the band‑within‑a‑band concept!)

Last, but very important, was the fact that there was considerable jazz solo strength. Tommy, of course, was an acknowledged virtuoso on trombone, who was an excellent ballad player and an capable jazz soloist. Bud Freeman was a highly individual and swinging tenor saxophonist. Max Kaminsky was strong on trumpet, and the young Joe Dixon projected plenty of excitement on clarinet. With Dave Tough on drums, the band was guaranteed to swing. (Bud Freeman is shown above left.)

So it was through 1936. In April of that year, the Dorsey band opened at the Blue Room of Hotel Lincoln in New York, and were on the air over CBS on a sustaining basis from that location. As broadcasts from that time show, the band was beginning to really click. Still, there were many one-night stands through the summer and early autumn of 1936, after the Blue Room gig ended. The next major location job the band had was an eight-week engagement in the summer of 1936, with broadcasts, emanating from the Texas Centennial in Dallas. Tommy’s band also replaced Fred Waring for the month of August 1936 on the Ford Sunday Hour radio show. In addition, the band  played various dance jobs in and around Dallas during this time.

After the Texas tour, they played one-nighters all the way back to New York. There they participated in a remarkable recording session on October 18, cutting an incredible nine sides that day. In that era, four sides per session was considered good, and if six were made, it was extraordinary. But nine? Amazing.(5) Among the tunes: Paul Weston’s  charts on “Sleep,” “Maple Leaf Rag,” and “After You’ve Gone.”

The music:

There is something about much of the music made by the better bands of the swing era in the mid-1930s that I find charming. Those years were the early ones in the development of the swing idiom, and the music that was made then was often melodic, uncomplicated and unabashedly intended to get dancers out on the dance floor. Indeed, dancing was a major reason why those bands existed. Few bands, in the 1930s or after, ever outdid Tommy Dorsey’s when it came to pleasing dancers. This performance is a marvelous early example of how Tommy and his band did just that.

The four-bar introduction fashioned by arranger Paul Weston is a delight: Tommy on open trombone begins the performance playing a pick-up into the humming saxophones and open brass. Then he plays the main melody of “After You’ve Gone” for sixteen bars with the gentle saxophones and the rhythm section behind him. The tempo is perfect for slow dancing. The open brass fill a brief interlude between Tommy’s solo and the saxophone quartet playing for the next sixteen bars, again supported by the rhythm, with Carmen Mastren’s guitar and Dave Tough’s drums (hear his bass drum off-beats) being well-recorded. (Above left: Dave Tough at the Zildjian cymbal workshop, mid-1930s – Quincy, Massachusetts.)

The next chorus belongs to tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman. His job in the Dorsey band was to play jazz, and here he does that memorably. Once again, Weston supports Freeman with the rhythm section, but he also warms-up the background with the open brass instruments being played softly, creating a cozy cushion for Bud’s provocative improvisation. The bridge is handled by the entire ensemble, with Freeman returning to provide some choice notes to finish his solo.

The band then plays a tract before Joe Dixon on clarinet appears briefly to play a paraphrase of the main melody. The ensemble then takes the performance to its conclusion.

The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes and links:

(*) The publicity photo of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in the studio at 711 Fifth Avenue was probably taken around September 1, 1934. At that time, the DBO had recently finished an engagement at the Sands Point Bath Club on Long Island, which included some NBC broadcasts. On September 19, 1934, the DBO opened a stand at Ben Marden’s Riviera, a roadhouse in Fort Lee, New Jersey, near the George Washington Bridge, which also would have some NBC broadcasts. There were a number of NBC offices, including NBC Artists Service and studios A and B at 711 Fifth Avenue. They had been used for some time by NBC, but NBC started relocating their operations to the new RCA Building in Rockefeller Center in late 1933. The Fifth Avenue studios then began to be used as an independent recording venue. NBC launched the Thesaurus Radio Transcription service on or about July 15, 1935. Some of the recordings made by Thesaurus were made at 711 Fifth Avenue. Also, World Broadcasting System, Inc. used the studios at 711 Fifth Avenue to make recordings through much of the 1940s. In the early to mid-1950s, these studios were operated by Fine Recording, Inc.

(1) Jimmy Dorsey …A Study in Contrasts, by Robert L. Stockwell (1999), 303.

(1A) After the departure of Tommy Dorsey from the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, he signed a contract with the aggressive personal manager Arthur Michaud. Jimmy continued to be represented by Cork O’Keefe.

(2) This piece of information was relayed to me in conversation by Bud Freeman in August of 1986.

(3) The Big Bands by George T. Simon (1967), 59.

(4) When I asked Bud Freeman if Tommy was at all concerned that by using so many arrangers, his band would not have an identifiable sound. Bud’s answer: “Young man, the style of Tommy Dorsey’s band then and always was set by the sound of his trombone.”

(5) It is my informed speculation that Tommy, having fulfilled the minimum number of recordings his initial, entry-level one-year Victor contract (signed in late September 1935) required, simply withheld his band from recording any more sides for Victor until his contract was renewed with more favorable terms for him.

Here are links to other music made by Tommy Dorsey in the mid and late 1930s:








Related Post


  1. Hello there, Mike. Excellent write up, wonderful to revisit this recording. I find it interesting that very few, if any, writers have noted that the early white swing bands, perhaps the recordings by the Dorsey brothers orchestra for Decca sound the most dated. Not that they aren’t enjoyable, but most of them seem not to have passed the test of time particularly well. Of course, just my opinion.

  2. I look forward to all SWING & BEYOND posts from the time the soon-to-be-spotlighted sides appear at the YT channel, but I was especially eager to read this one, as TD’s “After You’ve Gone,” from one of my favourite studio sessions in the band’s long history, ranks high on my list of best-loved recordings.

    I recall reading the notes from France’s “Chronological Classics” 1936 TD volume and being quite astonished to learn that the October 18 session (exactly one year after the historic recording of Tommy’s theme was produced) resulted in a whopping nine sides. Four sides being standard for a studio date, we must view this marathon Victor session as a testament to the virtuoso trombonist’s suitability for the role of bandleader. Looking over the titles from this date, we may appreciate the great variety: a jazz warhorse rendered instrumentally, “After You’ve Gone”; romantic pop tunes with vocals, “For Sentimental Reasons,” “May I Have the Next Romance with You,” “Another Perfect Night is Ending”; swing-oriented pop tunes with vocals, “Head Over Heals in Love,” “A High Hat, A Piccolo and A Cane”; a couple of waltzes, “Close to Me,” “Sleep” (the latter, the theme of Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians); a ragtime piece dating to 1899, “Maple Leaf Rag.” Tommy, we must conclude, was intent upon pleasing a diverse audience!

    The whole session is terrific, but I must make “For Sentimental Reasons,” “A High Hat, A Piccolo and A Cane” and “After You’ve Gone” my Top Three,” with “Gone” in the Number One spot — all of these being Weston charts. I, too, have a particular fondness for swing of the mid-’30s, soon after the official kick-off of the Swing Era. Sure, I can appreciate that the beefing up of each of the horn sections allowed the various orchestras to achieve greater harmonic complexity as swing progressed, but, too, I recognise that the increased volume (number translating into decibels), particularly in the brass sections, resulted in a change in how the rhythm sections operated. Guitarists, in particular, had to find a way to make an appreciable contribution (and not all believed an electric instrument to be the best means). Little delicate details were lost, it seems, as big bands got still bigger. The Dorsey crew’s 10/18/36 session is rife with these beautiful details — even though Tommy and the boys “pound plenty” (to borrow from Louis Armstrong). As a guitar player, I particularly delight in Carmen Mastren’s prominence in the rhythm on this session; someone clearly took greater care in how he was positioned in relation to the mike. I must say, I’ve often had the feeling that Tommy didn’t care as much about guitar as some of the other leaders did — and yet in Carmen he had one of the best six-string operators in the business. “Close to You,” includes some lovely Langesque filligree work; the intro of “Another Perfect Night is Ending” contains a couple of bars that lend an intimate mood, and on the swingers — “High Hat … Piccolo … ” in particular — Carmen’s pulse is a pivotal part of the vitality of these sides. In addition to the Mastren touch, what stands out for me on “Piccolo” is Paul Weston’s writing, especially for the reeds — I love that bridge after Bud’s solo! “For Sentimental Reasons” — I much prefer this poignant song to the more famous “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” — is a showcase for the leader’s ballad prowess as well as everything that makes Jack Leonard so memorable — chiefly, his sincerity.

    “After You’ve Gone,” both the session’s first side and the first one I heard, is my favourite version of this famous old jazz tune — and there have been many other great ones, including those by both the Goodman Trio and full orchestra. Young Weston (born two days before my dad) was truly the workhorse of that Dorsey writing staff — something that Bud Freeman acknowledged in a comment on the bespectacled arranger’s heavy output during a four-year stay with the band. He was very versatile and capable of turning fairly junky material into something highly enjoyable. On “After You’ve Gone,” he allows the leader set the laid-back mood with a jazz intro — and then, of course, gives that trombone ace his customary opening melody statement. In a most effective manner, Paul uses the brass for transitions and to add urgency to the otherwise quite relaxed, even lazy, atmosphere. His writing, though, for the saxes’ chorus just knocks me out. This old tune, with its improvisation-friendly chord structure, has always been a favourite among jazz musicians, but Weston spices up the harmony in a very sophisticated manner for these sixteen bars. If I had to pick a favourite bar in the whole performance, it would be measure ten in the sax chorus — for both those reed lines and the underpinning supplied by Carmen’s guitar; it’s a magical moment that never fails to get me! The trumpets herald Bud’s entrance with a modulation — and then Mr Freeman does that thing that nobody could do so well: While he’s right in there, swingin’ with the band, he somehow simultaneously comments on the proceedings, as an observer. I’ve never heard another musician with that degree of duality — enabling him to be both participant and spectator. It was, I believe, Bud’s wit, as a player and human being, that made this trick possible. In any case, his solo is a joy. After the brass ups the excitement in anticipation of a triumphant conclusion (despite the song’s rueful tone), Joe Dixon appears, with that piquant sound of his, to make one last entreaty, “Think what you’re doin’!” The great Dave Tough’s drumming throughout is magnificent, both swinging and extremely attentive to the soloists and surroundings. I have a great affection for this period in the Dorsey band’s long life and feel that this nine-side session and “After You’ve Gone,’ in particular, provide the best representation of it, a precious time.

    Finally, I must say that apart from a few instrumental sides, especially the wonderful extended “Honeysuckle Rose,” I’ve never been a big fan of the touring edition of the Dorsey Bros’ orch. I absolutely love the early ’30s sides from the band, before it existed outside of the studio — especially, of course, the many on which Bunny is present. These records have always seemed to me to be a fascinating and gritty aural depiction of the Great Depression. When the band became an actual thing, though, one that would take to the road, I think it took on a very pedestrian character, perhaps in an effort to please those whom real swing might offend. Bob Crosby’s vocals are dreadful and many of the arrangements have a ridiculous, frilly quality. The aggregation’s output couldn’t compare with the extraordinary music that many of the black bands were producing in the same period. Unceremonious — indeed, unprofessional — as his departure was, Tommy did the right thing in leaving — and out of the ashes eventually rose two great bands, with Tommy having at least one advantage in going with Victor rather than the so commercially-minded Decca.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.