Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tommy Dorsey: Jazz Superstar

Tommy Dorsey had a brief life, but during those years he accomplished a lot in the world of jazz. He was born in 1905 and died in 1956, at the age of 51. Tommy and his brother Jimmy were both successful jazz band leaders. The two brothers performed together often, until a falling out in 1935. The two did not speak to each other for many years. By 1953, the Dorsey Brothers took on television projects, including working with Jackie Gleason.

Over the years, many legendary performers were part of Dorsey's band, including Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra (1940-1942), Nelson Riddle, Doc Severinsen, Louie Bellson, Buddy Rich and more. It was said that Frank Sinatra learned breath control after watching Dorsey's technique on the trombone. Between 1941 and 1951, Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra appeared in ten films. He had an incredible amount of Billboard hits, numbering 286, with 17 number one hits in the 1930s and 1940s. Dorsey was known as a perfectionist with a short temper. He would "steal" performers that he liked from other bands and put them in his own. He was married three times.

A prime example of a Tommy Dorsey big band classic can be seen here. The song "Well Git It" was a showcase for Dorsey's collection of talented performers. The song had a drum solo, a clarinet solo, a solo featuring dueling pianos and alternating trumpet solos. The vitality of this music made it exciting and contagious for listeners. Buddy Rich performed this song on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, with Doc Severinsen and the band.

*Information from and
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