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The Big-band Sound

June 2024
1min read

Swing That Music! The Big Bands, the Soloists, the Singers—1929–1956

Smithsonian Collection of Recordings A4-19881 (four CDs)

Here is a definitive compilation of almost five hours of classic big-band music, collected, mastered, and annotated with the Smithsonian’s usual care and authority. It offers ninety-four selections, arranged chronologically, from a young Bing Crosby’s “After You’ve Gone” in front of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1929 to Dizzy Gillespie’s suave “I Can’t Get Started” in 1956. (The latter song also appears in a classic Bunny Berigan version and as sung by Billie Holiday with Count Basic in 1937.) Most of the tracks are with singers; they include Mildred Bailey, Peggy Lee, Billy Eckstine, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, and Sarah Vaughan, to name just a few. The bands include Armstrong’s, Galloway’s, Webb’s, Hines’s, Goodman’s, both Dorseys’, James’s, Shaw’s, Ellington’s, Krupa’s, Herman’s—just about everybody’s. The accompanying book is handsome and very informative, with an essay by the late Martin Williams identifying big-band music as a genuine melting pot that brought together blues, jazz, popular song, social dance music, and the cult of the soloist. The set was previously issued on LP and cassette in 1987; it has been revised and sonically refurbished for CD, and it sounds excellent.

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