100 Jazz Profiles
The Dorsey Brothers
Jimmy Dorsey (1904 - 1957)
Tommy Dorsey (1905 - 1956)
Brought up by their brass band director father in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, both Dorsey boys became multi-instrumentalists with high standards of perfection. Jimmy was to become one of the most technically brilliant reed players of the 1920s, with features such as Oodles of Noodles, but he also played trumpet.
Tommy was to become the master of smooth high-note ballad playing on the trombone - influencing his one-time vocalist Frank Sinatra - but he was also capable of producing stirring jazz choruses on cornet. In the 1920s, both brothers worked frequently together, both as in-demand freelance session players and in a succession of name bands such as Jean Goldkette's Orchestra.
They formed the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in 1934, featuring novel arrangements by Glenn Miller, until a quarrel led to a split the following year, with each brother setting up his own band. Jimmy's became more commercially orientated, playing dance music and backing vocalists such as Bob Eberle.
Tommy's became a first-rate jazz orchestra, and not only employed African-American arranger Sy Oliver, but star soloists including trumpeter Charlie Shavers and drummer Buddy Rich. His own playing won him the nickname the 'sentimental gentleman of swing' and as well as hits such as Marie and Song of India, he launched Sinatra's career. His small band, the Clambake Seven, was a high spirited Dixieland group drawn from the ranks of the big band.
The brothers were reunited for a movie, The Fabulous Dorseys, in 1947, and eventually worked regularly together again from 1953, until Tommy's death.
Gunther Schuller: The Swing Era. (New York, Oxford University Press) 1989
Jimmy Dorsey: Contrasts (MCA GRP 16262)
Suggested track: Dolemite
Tommy Dorsey: Yes, Indeed! (Bluebird ND 904499)
Suggested track: Yes, Indeed!
Dorsey Brothers at Red Hot Jazz
Site with audio files, biography and picture, plus links to sites on each individual brother
on radio 3
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