Provoked by Ian of the Villes Ville latest post on Dorsey brothers, I came to the conclusion to have my own tribute to brothers by pointing at their only feature film. I have a larger plan to review their released materials from Chronological Classics series which I'm working on.
My introduction to jazz was from movies. Jazz or any kind of western music wasn't - and still is not - available in my country so I dug this music from passages of classic films. And discovering Dorsey brothers happened when me and my two kid sisters were watching a VHS copy of Roy Del Ruth's 1943 musical, Du Barry was a lady. Still remembering the yellow coats and blue one of Tommy and smiling Buddy Rich on drum, I fell in love with the drive of the tune and colorization of the song by each fiery solos of trumpet.
Later on, I did own my first Dorsey CD from Jimmy Dorsey, and strange enough, not Tommy. A couple of years ago, my uncle jazzy, Reza Poodat, gave me a triple disc collection of Jimmy's orchestra, and a note attached to the box:
It should be called Dorsey goes Latin or something to that effect. Dorsey was one of the alto sax and clarinet giants. He could play his ass off whenever it came to twisting and turning that damned instrument. He went as far as to influence our good old Charlie [Parker]. He had a very famous Cherokee part that would knock Bird out. Another thing is the voice of this cat bob Eberle. He has a better voice than many other supposed singer babes. Strong, emotional, wide open, however with a limited range. Bob is a good singer. Dig him!
I took the advise and start digging Jimmy more and more. After a while it was my turn to knock uncle Reza down by delivering him the 1947 film, directed by Alfred E. Green, The Fabulous Dorseys, where Jimmy and Tommy are playing themselves in a mediocre musical melodrama. Both the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (with Serge Chaloff on baritone sax) and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (with Abe Most and Alvin Stoller, drs) appear, with guests Bob Eberle, Stuart Foster, Mike Pingitore, Helen O'Connell, Henry Busse and Paul Whiteman. Arthur Shields, one of John Ford's favorite Irish actors, is playing the role of Dorsey the father. Film tells the story of Tommy and Jimmy , from their boyhood in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania through their rise, their breakup, and their personal reunion. Typical of many backstage musicals of the 1930s and 1940s. Then, after 5 reels have passed, comes on of the most atmospheric jam session ever captured on big screen. The brothers go to the Art Tatum club, where God is playing his keyboard. Out of nowhere Charlie Barnet (alto sax), Ziggy Elman (trumpet), Sam Herman (guitar), Sid Bloch (bass) and Ray Bauduc (drums) drop in and turn the place upside down. This scene alone worth 10 Technicolor musical.
Thank heavens, the film is a public domain and it's possible to watch it free, here.
Music Directed/Conducted by: Louis Forbes
Music Arranged by: Bill Finegan
Songs: "At sundown" by Walter Donaldson; "I'll never say ‘never again' again" by Harry Woods; "To me" by Allie Wrubel, Don George; "Green eyes" by Nilo Menendez, Adolfo Utrera, E. Rivera, Eddie Woods; "Dorsey concerto" by Leo Shuken, Ray Bauduc; "Art's blues" by Art Tatum; "Everybody's doin' it", "Marie" by Irving Berlin; "The object of my affection" by Pinky Tomlin, Coy Poe, Jimmie Grier; "Runnin' wild" by Joe Grey, Leo Wood, A. Harrington Gibbs; "When you and I were young, Maggie" by James Austin Butterfield, George W. Johnson; "Waitin' at the gate for Katy" by Richard A. Whiting, Gus Kahn.
Jam Session scene with Art Tatum