“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.
“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. 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.
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.
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.