Charlie Barnet: Over the Rainbow


Over the Rainbow


Charlie Barnet (leader, soprano sax)


The Capitol Big Band Sessions (Blue Note)

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Charlie Barnet (leader, soprano sax), Norman 'Tiny' Kahn (drums), Ray Wetzel (trumpet), Dick Kenney (trombone),

Rolf Erickson, John Howell, Doc Severinsen, Maynard Ferguson (trumpets), Harry Betts, Herbie Harper, Kenny Martlock (trombones), Vinnie Dean, Ruben Leon (alto saxes), Dick Hafer, Kurt Bloom (tenor saxes), Manny Albam (baritone sax), Claude Williamson (piano), Ed Safranski (bass)


Composed by Harold Arlen & Yip Harburg. Arranged by Norman ‘Tiny’ Kahn


Recorded: New York, August 16, 1949


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Norman 'Tiny' Kahn was a prodigy who was self-taught on piano, drums and vibraharp. He became a mainstay of 1940s modern jazz as a drummer and composer, and it is Johnny Mandel's opinion that Kahn would have become an important composer had he lived. But Kahn had a weight problem and passed away of a heart attack at too early an age. He left several Basie-inspired original pieces for the Elliot Lawrence Orchestra, and this gem for Charlie Barnet's short-lived bebop band. Even Barnet wrote that this arrangement was one of the best items in the book at the time.

While this version of "Over the Rainbow" was clearly written to be danced to back in 1949, it offers a valuable musical experience for the listener. After an introduction of two muted trumpets playing moving lines against each other and an unusual cadence by the full band, the trumpet soloist (I believe this to be Wetzel, although it could be just about anybody in the section) plays the melody against a contrapuntally based reharmonization of the song. Barnet's soprano lead introduces a six-man reed statement of the melody, and he continues while the remainder of the section plays pyramid-type figures under him. Full brass takes over (Dick Kenney has a lovely solo here), and there is a short transition to a key change. At 2:07, there is a cut of eight bars; the original score continued with the bridge in the new key, which included a written baritone sax solo. The recording picks up with another key change, a statement of the last part of the song, and a repeat of the beginning of the arrangement to tie things up.

The arrangement is a lovely original statement of a standard which continues to speak to us. Even college students raved about it when my college jazz orchestra played my restoration of it some years ago.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof

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