Happy-Rose Orchestra: Get Happy

Hit of the Week was a flexible one-sided record sold at newsstands for 15 beginning in early 1930. By summer, sales were over 500,000 units a week, an amazing success at a time when such major labels as Columbia, Victor and Brunswick were hardly moving any records. Most of the HOW fare consisted of new songs chosen by committee, and performed by popular dance bands led by Vincent Lopez, Bert Lown and Donald Vorhees. In its first year of operation, HOW also recorded such jazz bands as Ben Pollack and Duke Ellington, but the track under consideration was perhaps the hottest in the company's history. It was made to advertise an orchestra for hire, was never offered for sale, and the band's personnel is unknown (although it is generally agreed that Tommy Dorsey is the hot trombonist). It certainly deserves to be heard.

The disc raises several questions: Who was the leader? Who are the musicians besides Dorsey? (Red Nichols, Mannie Klein and Bunny Berigan have been suggested as the trumpet soloist; my vote is for Klein.) Is this a pickup group or a regular working band on the recording? These questions and others remain unanswered and are not likely to be so at this late date. It doesn't make the recording any less exciting or enjoyable.

July 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Tierney Sutton: Get Happy (version one)

Tracks like this are perhaps a sign that postmodern jazz has run its course. When we start interpreting lyrics to evoke the exact opposite of their meaning . . . hmmm, this is where the shallowness that underlies many of the postmodern musical games goes just a bit too far. Yes, let's take Harold Arlen's bright, optimistic "Get Happy" and perform it as if it were a lugubrious dirge. What's next? "Lush Life" as a polka? "Take Five" in 3/4? When cleverness becomes an end in itself, almost anything is possible.

I sense that Sutton has been listening to Patricia Barber, who also takes great chances with her songs. But where Barber aims for a pleasing ambiguity, this track is heavy-handed and obvious; as is, for that matter, the idea of recording 13 songs about happiness, many of them quite melancholy. If this performance were a person, I would send it to a shrink. But barring that, my advice is to leave it shrink-wrapped.

February 14, 2008 · 0 comments


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