Tommy Dorsey: Lonesome Road


Lonesome Road


Tommy Dorsey (trombone)


Yes, Indeed! (Bluebird 9987-2-RB)

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Tommy Dorsey (trombone), Babe Russin (tenor sax), Yank Lawson (trumpet),

Pee Wee Irwin, Andy Ferretti (trumpets), Dave Jacobs, Ward Silloway, Elmer Smithers (trombones), Johnny Mince, Fred Stulce, Skeets Herfurt, Dean Kinkaide (saxes), Howard Smith (piano), Carmen Mastrin (guitar), Gene Traxler (bass), Dave Tough (drums)


Composed by Gene Austin & Nathaniel Shilkret; arranged by Bill Finegan


Recorded: New York, May 1, 1939


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Early in his career, while writing arrangements for local bands near his home in Rumson, New Jersey, Bill Finegan also taught arranging on the side—to, among others, Nelson Riddle. As for this ambitious arrangement of "Lonesome Road," Bill later admitted it was of the "kitchen sink" variety; that is, written to show off anything and everything musically that was under Finegan's command. To say that Tommy Dorsey, the Sentimental Gentleman of Swing, was impressed would be an understatement. Hardly any bandleader recorded one arrangement over both sides of a single record, especially of a song that was several years old. But Dorsey was a musician as well as a businessman; he couldn't shorten a good piece that showed off his band so well.

From an opening on piano and striking brass chords, the melody is played by the leader in his distinctive style. After this first chorus, Russin solos under more brass chords, then there is a showoff section for trombones, a brief statement by Lawson, and a key change based on musical material in the introduction. (This is where side 1 ends.) A rather quiet saxophone soli with clarinet lead starts side 2, solos by Smith and Mince, then another key change and the band playing full out. There is another short sax soli, some brass, Dorsey again, and the ending using the introduction, concluding on a seventh chord.

No description can substitute for hearing this excellent first recorded glimpse into the mind of one of our great American composers. "Lonesome Road" illustrates Finegan's clear form, balance, and opportunities for most of the players to shine, individually and as sections. Add to that the 2-beat style of Lunceford, and this is a major event. (As an aside, Dorsey was to hire Lunceford's main musical arranger soon after this record was made, the one and only Sy Oliver.)

Unfortunately, on this CD reissue the two sides are not joined together to allow the piece to be heard as one unit, and the silence between tracks is jarring (one of your few bad decisions, Orrin Keepnews). But neither should something this good have sat in a vault collecting dust.

The story has a happy ending. Dorsey couldn't hire Finegan full time, but did recommend the arranger to a buddy of his who was leading his second band and needed an arranger desperately. In fact, Dorsey had invested some money in this band. Glenn Miller was the beneficiary of Dorsey's good deed, and Finegan would remain with the Miller band until it disbanded in 1942. Dorsey finally did hire Finegan fulltime in '42, and Bill wrote for the band until 1950.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof

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  • 1 Greg Burrows // Jan 26, 2009 at 05:38 AM
    Bill Finegan left the planet in the summer of 2008, still full of fresh ideas (note: Chanticleer's recording of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas') and eager to get those ideas down on paper and played. He was a friend and a one-of-a-kind and I miss him.