djstarr wrote:I think this discussion highlights the different between dj'ing for listening (i.e. radio) and dj'ing for dancing. There are tons of killer songs where the tempo drifts, or it's pretty and fun to listen to (and perhaps cheesy), but the rhythm isn't there.
And Reuben makes a good point - when you are picking out a track, you want to go with the best version possible for dancing.
So what songs do you consider are Harry James signature tunes?
What "I'm begining to see the light" on is the definition of the word 'cheesy' As the dance community refers to it the word means undanceable. In a more broad musical sense, I've always associated the term cheesy' with being very bland, uninspired.
Brenda asked about signature tunes. That will depend on the era:
1937-1939 - Benny Goodman years:
Sing, Sing, Sing - solo and lead playing in Carnegie Hall Concert is fantastic
Life Goes to a Party - BTW Reuben Harry James co-wrote this song. The arrangement I'm about 80% certain is James's also.
The Blue Room
Big John Special
Wrappin' It Up
Bumble Bee Stomp
The lead playing Harry James did as a young 21 year old player is truly trend setting. It was the basis for most future lead big brassy playing. If you listen carefully to Harry's lead playing with Goodman, and try to find any other big band that had that kind of lead playing in 1937 - you won't find it. Anything but 'cheesy'.
Flash - Very Basieish sound and feel
Concerto for Trumpet - Classical to swing feel - Unreal performance, composition and arrangement by James
Night Special - Another James composition with great swing beat
Back Beat Boogie - ditto
Carnival of Venice - Classical to swing showcase for Harrys amazing trumpet playing
Come and Get it - Slower groove swing
This was Harry's struggling years as a band leader. He was desperately trying to play jazz and harder swing things. The sales for his records just wasn't there. Nothing 'cheesy' about this band or Harry's playing, composing or arranging.
This is THE popular time for Harry. Next to Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters and probably Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey , Harry James was in the top 5-7 bands in popularity.
Signature pieces are NUMEROUS!!! I'll assume most know these big hits:
You made Me Love You
Flight of the Bumble Bee
I've Heard That Song Before
I'm Begining to See the Light
It's Been a Long, Long Time
I Cried for You
Two O'Clock Jump
He's A-1 in the Army and A-1 in My Heart
He's My Guy
Mister Five by Five
Most of these were extrememly popular. Most are very danceable, but I will agree these are not lindy dance songs. They weren't designed for that. For the era, Harry James is a signature leader and performer.
Era of 1945-1950 was very slow for most bands. Harry broke up his band, but continued trying to play his hits from the WWII era. Nothing 'cheesy' in this era.
Probably the best era for James jazz fans. He produced a ton of quality things on Columbia and Capitol. I have playing right now part of the wonderful Mosaic set from the mid 50s - James Capitol Years
Capitol Years: 1955-1958
Street Scene - Sentinmental Rhapsody - Classical feel to ballad - breath taking performance
April in Paris - This different hard swing arrangement gives Basie a run for his money
Ram's Horn - James Composition, Basie style swing
September Song - Slow swing, very clever arrangement by Ray Conniff
Somebody Loves Me - Hard Swing - great arrangement by Ernie Wilkins
In a Sentimental Mood - FANTSASTIC ballad performance by Willie Smith on Alto
Blues on a Count - Great hard Basie type swinger
Blues for Sale - ditto
Willow Weep for Me - slow bluesy - another great showcase for Willie Smith
Columbia Years: 1950-1954
Blues from "An American Paris" - great performance of a quasi classical-swing arrangement
Mam Bongo - Latin Mambo beat
Memphis Blues - Down and dirty with the blues
There They Go - Great hard swing thing
Jackpot Blues - co wrote by Harry and Buck Clayton - great hard swinger
In looking at the era, here are my notes on Harry James Compositions or co-composing: Trumpet Blues, Music Makers, Ciribiribin, Keblah, Walkin' Home, Beguine, Ram's Horn, Smogbound, Blues on a Count, Countin', Cotton' Pickin, Bee Gees, Barn 12, Ring for Porter, Just Lucky, Fair and Warmer, Bangtail, Walkin' on Air, Two' O'Clock Jump, Ultra, There They Go, Jackpot Blues, Don't Stop, Feet Draggin' Blues, Back Beat Boogie
In looking at my notes for these tracks, nothing even close to 'cheesy'
This era I'm not nearly familiar with. I will say the last band Harry James had he tried some pop things like the Theme for Sanford and Son that didn't work.
Now I want to address Reuben:
Reuben makes reference to performances of songs that he prefers over Harry James performances. Let's address those one by one:
"Life Goes To A Party - I'll take Goodman's instead. "
Hey Reuben check your discogrpahy - James co-wrote the song along with lead trumpet and great solo playing - NOTHING cheesy here, as you agree.
"Penthouse Serenade - Way to many other versions I'd rather listen to. "
Harry James made one recording of this - 1937 - I haven't listened to that - No comment
"One O'Clock Jump - I mean, come on. "
Obviously the Count Basie version is a classic - but oddly, I only show the following for Harry James recordings of this:
1964 in Vegas - Thad Jones arrangement - I would love to hear this. I see it is on a Verve CD# 823229-2 - No comment
1971 in London - No CD on this - I'm assuming it is the Thad Jones arrangement again - Never heard it.
In looking at my discography, Harry under his own name, only recorded it twice. Do you have anything else Reuben?
"T'Ain't What You Do - Do I even need to go there? "
The Lunceford version is classic again.
Oddly my discography lists no recordings by Harry James, but 3 recordings of Benny Goodman.
I haven't hear any of these. Reuben what do you have for Harry James on this?
"King Porter Stomp - Again, where do I begin? "
Well to me the definitive version is the Benny Goodman. These were 'pre Harry James years' - 1935-1936
Harry James did record this in 1939 - I haven't heard this version. He also played it frequently in radio broadcasts.
Again without hearing the James version I can't comment.
I will say the Gerry Mulligan arrangement for Gene Krupa in around 1945 is every bit as good as the classic Fletcher arrangement for Goodman.
"I Found A New Baby - I'll take Hampton's of course. "
Oddly again I find no recording of this for Harry James.
What CD or LP do you have Reuben for this one?
"Crazy Rhythm - Django please. "
I don't have the Django version.
Harry Recorded this in 1942 and then in 1956
I have the 1956 recording and it is great. Jack Mathias, one of the big arrangers for Harry does a great job.
This song has tons of great versions. The Harry James is a hard swing big band thing.
"Shorty George - Give me Basie or death. "
The Basie version again is classic
The only 2 listings I see for Harry are from Radio Transcriptions
I don't have either, but the sound quality may have been marginal on your version Reuben. Am I right?
"On The Sunny Side of the Street - What's this without Ella? "
Again I only see Harry James version from radio broadcasts. No studio versions.
How is the sound quality on your Harry James version Reuben
"Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - DITTO "
One studio session of Harry James from 1943
I haven't heard this.
"All of Me, Rose Room, Body and Soul... I wouldn't even think of playing James doing these numbers. "
Well Harry recorded All of Me twice in mid 1940s
again I'm embarrassed to say Reuben's collection of Harry James in the 1940s is much better than mine
Rose Room - Benny Goodman version does it for me - Note Harry James is in the trumpet section in the classic Goodman studio version
Body and Soul - The Coleman Hawkins version is considered the top. I actually prefer the Roy Eldgridge version a few months earlier in 1939.
As far as Harry James - 1943 he did a studio version. Reuben has to track me into these CDs and/or LPs of Harry
"Big John's Special - Gimme the Mills Blue Rhythm Band please! "
Actually I'll take the Benny Goodman version - with guess who??!!!
Oddly again Reuben I'm not showing any Harry James led recordings of this.
"Squatty Roo - It's nothing without Hodges!"
Oddly again I show no Harry James versions of this.
So Reuben, you really do have quite a bit of Harry James in your collection. You'll have to key us into the CDs you have of Harry with the above tracks.
In summary, Harry James is never cheesy in musical quality. If you can honestly say any of the above tracks I mention about Harry James are poor in arranging and/or performances, let me know.