Boogie, Ballads and Be-Bop: The Best of the Columbia Years
|No doubt about it, Gene Krupa
led the coolest big band of the 1940s. After his huge hits of the
early 40s with Anita O'Day and Roy Eldridge, his stock plummeted when
he was busted for marijuana possession in 1943. After a short jail
term and some public groveling, Krupa reformed the band the following
year with a massive string section and the forward-looking honking
tenor sax of Charlie Ventura. The lingering scent of pot inadvertently
lent a mantle of smoky hipness to this new venture.
Unlike his contemporaries, Tommy Dorsey and Benny
Goodman, Gene was now determined not to let any new musical trend
go by. He kept his ear to the ground for new sounds and talent.
Krupa brought back Anita O'Day, signed the bop
vocal duo of Dave Lambert and Buddy Stewart and uncovered a hip
young arranger named Gerry Mulligan. By the late forties, the band
had fallen under the spell of Dizzy Gillespie, both musically and
sartorially. They posed for an Esquire photo shoot in Gillespian
splendor, done up in the berets, goatees and shades that he popularized.
The new Collectables CD assembles 25 of the best
sides from these years. Hipness prevails - in the first recorded
be-bop vocal, What's This? by Lambert & Stewart; Frankie
Rosolino's wild scat and trombone on Lemon Drop; Anita and
Buddy duetting on Didja Ever Get That Feeling in the Moonlight?
and the instrumental Dizzy homages, Calling Dr. Gillespie and
To Be Or Not to Be-Bop.Carolyn Grey, Anita's replacement,
sings coolly on It's a Good Day" and There Is No
Breeze To Cool the Flame of Love. And the Krupa Jazz Trio with
Charlie Ventura gets some welcome space on three tracks.
Only a few commercial duds creep in - Harriet
(A Western Novelty)and Chiquita Banana aren't worthy
of Anita and Carolyn Grey. Fortunately the compilers resisted the
temptation to include THE worst Krupa side - The Story of the
A creepy aside about this Krupa band - several
of its vocalists met untimely demises. Buddy Stewart got out of
his car to help a motorist in distress in 1950 and was promptly
run over; Dave Lambert (who later formed Lambert, Hendricks and
Ross) died suddenly in 1966; and Frankie Rosolino went berserk in
1975, murdering his wife and kids before taking his own life. "What's
-David J. Weiner