Composed by William Johnson, Julian Dash and Erskine Hawkins.
Arranged by Sy Oliver.
Recorded by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra live from an NBC radio network broadcast from the Astor Hotel Roof Garden in New York City in early June, 1940.
Tommy Dorsey, trombone, directing: Bunny Berigan, Ray Linn, Jimmy Blake, Leon Debrow, trumpets; George Arus, Les Jenkins, Lowell Martin, trombones; Hymie Shertzer, Johnny Mince, alto saxophones; Don Lodice and Paul Mason, tenor saxophones; Freddie Stulce, baritone saxophone; Joe Bushkin, piano, Clark Yokum, guitar; Sid Weiss, bass; Buddy Rich, drums.
I have previously posted at swingandbeyond.com a detailed history of the swing era classic “Tuxedo Junction.” That post focuses on the origination in 1939 of “Tuxedo Junction” in the Erskine Hawkins band, and the later phenomenally successful refashioning of it by Glenn Miller. This post will examine Bunny Berigan’s association with “Tuxedo Junction,” first in Tommy Dorsey’s band in the spring and summer of 1940, and then with his own band, starting in the fall of 1940.
After Glenn Miller’s recording of “Tuxedo Junction” became a runaway hit in the spring of 1940, many other bands rushed to create their own interpretations of it. One such band was Tommy Dorsey’s. TD’s chief arranger in 1940 was Sy Oliver, whose charts on new pop tunes were every bit as good as his original composition/arrangements. Oliver’s direct, colorful and always swinging writing appealed to both Tommy Dorsey’s audiences and to the musicians in the Dorsey band.
Oliver’s arrangement of “Tuxedo Junction” contained a large place for an improvised trumpet solo, created especially for Bunny Berigan, who from March through August of 1940, was TD’s featured jazz trumpet soloist. The version presented here shows that Berigan was stimulated by both “Tuxedo Junction” and Oliver’s writing. His jazz solo in this live performance is terrific. The tempo Oliver used in this arrangement was slower than that used by Erskine Hawkins and faster than the one used by Glenn Miller: half-fast, as Louis Armstrong used to say. Berigan’s trumpet, which he plays open throughout this arrangement, begins this performance with a fragment of the melody as an introduction, then the TD reeds and brass deliver an entire chorus of “Tuxedo Junction.” As was often the case, there is a wonderful compositional flow to his improvised solo, which displays his broad, lustrous trumpet sound. Berigan begins his solo quitely, gradually increasing the intensity of his playing, reaching an exciting climax and relaxed denouement. That is Berigan’s trumpet by the way, leading the ensemble in the finale.
(Note: The arrangement Sy Oliver wrote for the Tommy Dorsey band on “Tuxedo Junction” included a chorus following Berigan’s solo that showcased the Pied Pipers singing quartet presenting the newly written lyric for the tune. I have excised that portion to highlight Berigan’s trumpet solo.)
Composed by William Johnson, Julian Dash and Erskine Hawkins; head arrangement organized by William Johnson and then modified by the Berigan band.
Recorded live from an NBC radio broadcast from the “Dancing Campus” of the New York World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows, New York on October 14, 1940.
Bunny Berigan, trumpet, directing: Jack Thompson, lead trumpet; Frank Perry and Ray Krantz, trumpets; Ernie Stricker and Max Smith, trombones; Eddie Alcock lead alto saxophone; Andy Fitzgerald alto and baritone saxophone, and clarinet; Frank Crolene and Johnny Castaldi, tenor saxophones; Edwin “Buddy” Koss, piano; Tommy Moore, guitar; Morty Stulmaker, bass; Jack Maisel, drums.
Berigan left Tommy Dorsey’s band toward the end of August of 1940 for a number of reasons, paramount of which was that he wanted to be a bandleader once again. He organized and began rehearsing a new big band in September, and by early October was breaking his new band on jobs in and around New York City. The book of arrangements this new band played started out with many of the charts used by the 1937-early 1940 Berigan band, some new scores written by two musicians in the new band, Andy Fitzgerald and Frank Crolene, and a few Bunny snagged from fellow bandleaders who were disposed to help him. The arrangement Berigan used on “Tuxedo Junction” was given to him by fellow trumpet-playing bandleader Erskine Hawkins, and is the very same one the Hawkins band recorded for Bluebird in July of 1939.
What is interesting, in addition to Berigan’s own trumpet solos, which are fresh and new, is how the Hawkins arrangement (which was really a simple sketch prepared by Hawkins’s lead alto saxophonist and arranger Bill Johnson), evolved in performance by this new Berigan band. Although there were no dramatic changes, there were nevertheless a few new twists. First and most importantly, Bunny, like Glenn Miller, slowed down the tempo from the one used by Hawkins, but not to the crawl of the classic Miller recording, and like Miller he played this arrangement in 4/4 time. Second, he allowed almost all of the solo space to himself, muting his trumpet with a plunger at first, then using a cup mute, concluding with the plunger again. (The tasty clarinet solo is by Andy Fitzgerald. The fine guitar work throughout is by Tommy Moore.) That was not because Berigan wanted to exclude his sidemen from taking solos, but because he loved playing “Tuxedo Junction,” and especially enjoyed creating new improvisations on it. Berigan’s arrangement contrasted the melodic unison saxophones with bursts of open brass. Moreover, because “Tuxedo Junction” was such an audience-pleaser, it became a feature for Berigan’s trumpet that remained in his band’s book, and was played frequently by him until the end, which sadly would come all to soon, on June 2, 1942, when he died from cirrhosis at age 33. (*)
(*) During the five years he led big bands, Berigan gradually acquired a number of medium tempo arrangements that were showcases for his solo trumpet, were ideal for dancing, and were played often by him. In addition to “Tuxedo Junction,” these included: “Trees,” and “Night Song.”
The recordings presented here were digitally remastered with considerable sonic restoration by Mike Zirpolo.