Celebrate the swing era and “Those Fabulous Dorseys” at Purdue jazz concert
Swing era kings, and real-life brothers, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey fought through a love/hate relationship to create dozens of No. 1 Billboard hits in the 1930s-1950s. Purdue's American Music Repertory Ensemble focuses exclusively on their musical genius in "Those Fabulous Dorseys" at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center.
Admission is free.
Hits that everyone hummed in the swing era – "Sunny Side of the Street," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," – reflected the emotional energy and the talent of the duo, who performed together when times were good and led their own bands in other times. Twenty-one tunes by the Dorseys, including vocals made famous by Frank Sinatra and Helen O'Connell, are on the concert.
"The two brothers were very supportive and loyal but they didn't get along very well." says M.T. "Mo" Trout, the director of AMRE. Tommy was the hot-headed brother; Jimmy the easy going one.
"Many say Tommy Dorsey (the older of the brothers) led the greatest band of the swing era," Trout says. "They were the most versatile, played everything and had high standards. His audience was kids and dancers, and he really geared the music towards them."
In a five year span, Tommy Dorsey's band recorded 17 No. 1 hits. "Tommy was a hot jazz player at heart," Trout says. As a band leader, he would play and direct from the front end of a diagonal line sizzling trombones. Jimmy Dorsey gravitated towards the clarinet and saxophone and became the top also sax player of the swing era.
Both started performing careers in the 1920s and in 1932 formed their first band together. In 1935, the brothers had a well-publicized difference of opinion on stage. Tommy called out a tune and Jimmy responded that the tempo was too fast. "There was tension on the bandstand. Tommy walked off the stage in the middle of the concert and never came back. He went on to start his own band," Trout says.
The split did nothing to diminish either's success. Trout says that, specifically in 1940-42, the Tommy Dorsey Band was considered to be the best band on the music scene. Meanwhile, Jimmy had teamed up with popular singer Helen O'Connell and had a series of ten No. 1 hits.
The American Music Repertory Ensemble will open with the signature tune of the Tommy Dorsey Band, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," which showcases his unique trombone style and the "smooth, flowing style of the band that earned Tommy the nickname 'The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing'." Trout says. They'll also play Jimmy's signature tune, "Contrasts" which alternates slow and fast sections like most of his tunes. "He was worried dancers would not like it. But it caught on and became a trademark of his style. 'Contrasts' starts out as a ballad, goes into driving swing and comes back to a lyrical ballad at the end."
Some of Jimmy's No. 1 hits on the program are "Green Eyes" and "Brazil." Top Billboard hits from Tommy include "Song of India," "Marie" and "Hawaiian War Chant." Frank Sinatra was the main soloist with Tommy Dorsey's band. "Sinatra said he learned breath control from Tommy and how he played trombone," Trout says. Sinatra's "Day In, Day Out" and "How About You?" are on the program.
Trout's personal favorite of the Dorsey tunes is "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry," a tune written by Johnny Mercer and performed by Helen O'Connell. It takes a light-hearted look at a woman who has decided to transform herself into the "queen of the dance" by responding to an ad for classes at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio.
"Those Fabulous Dorseys" is sponsored by Purdue Bands and Orchestras.