“Turn On That Red Hot Heat” (1937)

“Turn on That Red Hot Heat”

Composed by Louis Alter and Paul Francis Webster; arranged by Joe Lippman.

Recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra on August 7, 1937 for Victor in New York City.

Bunny Berigan, trumpet, directing: Steve Lipkins and Irving Goodman, trumpets; Sonny Lee and Al George, trombones; Mike Doty and Joe Dixon, alto saxophone and clarinet; Georgie Auld and Clyde Rounds, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Joe Lippman, piano; Tom Morgan, guitar; Hank Waylend, bass; George Wettling, drums.

Berigan and drummer George Wettling – strolling the sidewalks of New York outside the Pennsylvania Hotel – spring 1937.

“Turn On That Red Hot Heat (Burn Your Blues Away)” is undoubtedly one of the best recordings Bunny Berigan ever made, though it has only rarely been released as a part of the many anthologies of his recordings. The arrangement, the band’s performance, and especially Berigan’s trumpet playing, are all superb. Once again, newcomer Gail Reese is saddled with a pedestrian lyric, but such was often the lot of girl vocalists in big bands then.

Arranger Joe Lippman reprised his very successful opening from “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” with a few new dramatic twists here: drummer George Wettling’s pounding tom-toms, and the growling open trombones of Sonny Lee and Al George, followed by the wailing clarinets, then the ooh-aah trumpets tell the listener that this heat is to be found in Equatorial (or is it Ellingtonian?) Africa. In any case, it is a masterful use of contrasting registers and timbres. Then the maestro steps out, plunger in hand, growling away on his otherwise open trumpet, to state the melody for sixteen bars, backed by those tasty clarinets. Joe Dixon then takes his turn, with sixteen bars that start in the juicy lower register of his clarinet. He is backed by the open brass. As he moves up into his high register, there is a corresponding heightening of excitement. Dixon’s solo is first-rate jazz.

Clarinetist Joe Dixon.

The band then struts on into the vocal chorus, which Gail Reese does invest with some enthusiasm. Berigan returns on open trumpet for another sixteen bars with a sound so huge that it almost overloads the microphones. His exultant solo is the quintessence and culmination of everything he had been working to achieve as a jazz soloist for the previous ten or more years. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end to this solo: it is a perfect musical statement, and marvelous jazz. It is also technically dazzling, but not at the expense of the music in his playing. Note in the finale when Berigan joins the rest of the brass section playing the first trumpet part for the ride-out. The music soars.

Vocalist Gail Reese singing with the Berigan band.

This tune was written by Louis Alter (music) and Paul Francis Webster (lyric). Webster would do much better in later years with the lyrics to memorable songs like “The Shadow of Your Smile” (the title to which the great lyricist Johnny Mercer hated); “Somewhere My Love,” “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” “The Twelfth of Never,” and “Black Coffee.”

Bunny Berigan’s 1937 recording of “Turn On That Red Hot Heat” is definitely a swing era sleeper that deserves to be heard.

The recording used in this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

3 thoughts on ““Turn On That Red Hot Heat” (1937)

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  1. In Joe Lippman’s red hot arrangement, I can hear a precursor to his scoring for the clarinets in the soon-to-be-recorded “Caravan.” It sounds, too, as if Bunny later borrowed from his muted solo here for the harmonically similar “My Walking Stick.” I very much enjoy George Wettling’s varied work throughout the side. Joe Dixon, who had such a distinctive sound, makes a great contribution, too, turning up the dial from “simmer” to “10,” thereby achieving a vigorous boil. On his bridge, Bunny says infinitely more about throwing caution and inhibition to the winds than even the great Paul Francis Webster (albeit in his callow youth) could convey. This song, incidentally, appeared as a production number in the 1937 United Artists film, VOGUES OF 1938.

    “Turn On That Red Hot Heat” may be a sleeper to Berigan fans in general, but it’s always been a favorite of mine, revealing the character and power of Bunny’s fledgling orchestra.

  2. When a trumpet player takes lessons to learn his craft, the instructor will work very hard to get the student to produce a full, rich, “straight” sound on the horn. If the trumpet player gravitates toward jazz, however, a unique individual sound is much desired in order to set one’s self out from the rest of the players out there. Duke’s band produced a lot of singular trumpet masters, Rex Stewart, Bubber Miley, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, to name but a few. Duke encouraged individuality to be sure, and it was a strength of his band.
    My point, though, is that Bunny really gets that great vocal growl into the first part of his muted solo, and this only comes from listening to the masters, and then incorporating that quality into your own personal style. You can’t get this stuff from lessons. You have to want to do it from your soul and listen and copy. A “style” is an elusive quality in a jazz player. Bunny had it in spades.You can tell Bunny’s playing usually within only a few bars of hearing. I have had the great fortune to play with a band that only played charts that came from up to about 1932 with a few exceptions in the library, and to be honest, it wasn’t easy to try to recreate a genuine “sound” from that era, doing Louis, King Oliver, Rex, Bix, and even Bunny, who admittedly came much later. Bunny did the growls so nicely, wow. The later, unmuted segment of his solo had me going, “where did that come from?” A great entry, to be sure, much enjoyed!

  3. you were right, great bunny and band and that was the epic “started” session date.
    thank you so much

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