The four 1942 Soundies featuring Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra hold great promise, yet considering Thornhill’s later achievements they are bound to disappoint somewhat. There is nothing in the series as radical as “Portrait of a Guinea Farm,” as lush and romantic as “Snowfall,” nor as swinging as “Donna Lee.” There is no touch of Gil Evans’s gorgeous arrangements that would characterize the post war band. But, as we will see, there is a lot to this three-minute short.
Soundies producers were always happy to use public domain songs since royalty payments could be avoided, and they often asked that at least one song from a recording session be rights-free. In this case, however, “Where Has My Little Dog Gone,” a PD piece, was part of the Thornhill book in 1941. While Gil Evans was arranging for the band at this time, this chart is the work of Thornhill and one of his earlier alto men, Dale Brown. The “literary composition” – that is, the story, such that it is – was by Charles Abbott who wrote the plots for dozens of Minoco Soundies. Nothing scandalous here, but the lack of censorship because of the “rudeness” surprises me a bit.
There are some well-known names in the band and you’ll catch glimpses of them here-and-there. Seated in the middle of the trumpet section, playing lead, is the great Conrad Gozzo. The trombone soloist, heard off-screen, is Tasso Harris, sitting to the far left in the section. Danny Polo takes a brief solo on clarinet, and the alto soloist is Ted Goddard, usually a tenor man. In addition to Claude on piano, the rhythm section includes Barry Galbraith on guitar and the great Lou Fromm on drums. The vocals are deftly handled by the talented Martha Wayne and further bopper Buddy Stewart.
This is not hot jazz, perhaps, but it is an effective dance arrangement that shows what a fine band Thornhill was leading in the early 1940s.