Here’s a Soundie for those of you into big band music … and one of the great mysteries of the Soundies jazz oeuvre.
On May 31, 1945, East Coast producer William Forest Crouch brought Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra into the R.C.A. recording studios in Manhattan for an extended session at which seven soundtracks were committed to wax. Six of the seven were either ballads or novelty pieces; the seventh is something special … or at least potentially so.
By 1945 the Casa Loma Orchestra was a decade past its prime, and no longer an influence on the jazz scene. On the other hand, it was still a professional outfit, and its recordings and transcriptions from the war years are full of fine music. In 1944-45 leader Gray welcomed to fine trumpet players to the band, first Red Nichols, then the great Bobby Hackett.
The one jazz piece from the session is a jazz composition and arrangement by Ray Coniff called “Savage,” a second or third cousin of Juan Tizol’s “Caravan.” The Soundie starts off in a harem, with the bands clarinetist Armand Clovis Gelineau (better known as “Fat” Daniels) dressed as a sultan, and playing for nightclub dancers Faith Arlen. We then move to the band, and the real action begins.
Now, the recording contract was drawn up prior to the recording session, and there had been changes in the band before date at R.C.A. I was able to speak to a number of band members, and even then there are conflicts in personnel. However, among the notables in the band are lead trumpet Ralph Muzzillo, pianist Lou Carter and drummer Jackie Mills.
And there, to the right of the section, taking a fine trumpet solo, is Bobby Hackett. But is it Hackett we hear on screen? There is no consensus in the matter. Hackett had a recording session of his own that day and some argue that the solo was taken by someone else in the band. So said Artie Shaw, Joe Showler and Randy Sandke. Plumbing in favor for Hackett are Uan Rasey, Joohnny Blowers and (with a some reservations), the man with the best ears in the music, Dan Morgenstern. As for me? It sounds like Hackett to me … although those high B flats and Cs are not characteristic of his work.
So, what do the listeners here have to say?