CHARLIE PARKER’S INSPIRATION…Jimmy Dorsey: The Jimmy Dorsey Hits Collection 1937-57

Yes, it’s true! Charlie Parker’s favorite alto sax player was Jimmy Dorsey, brother of Tommy Dorsey and leader of his own very successful big band after splitting up with his hot tempered brother. This 5 cd set has Dorsey playing sax and clarinet while leading his band which included some of the greatest vocalists of the Big Band era, notably Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly.

But this set isn’t merely an exercise in nostalgia, although pieces like the “Green Eyes” duet between Eberly & O’Connell, Eberly’s “Deep Purple” and “Tangerine” are guaranteed to get you misty eyed. In between vocal choruses, Dorsey could deliver some smoking solos, and arrangements by the likes of Freddie Slack made the music both artsy and danceable.

Dorsey’s alto solo on “Amapola,” for instance is strong, creative and pungent, and on “I Haven’d Changed a Thing” you can here tones and riffs that obviously influenced Parker. His sound on the clarinet can be sweet and warm as on “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” or swing with delight on the hard hitting “John Silver” and as he and the band sizzle with style on “Jersey Bounce” and “Sorghum Switch.” A handful of post WWII songs have Dorsey returning to his roots with buddies Carl Kress/g and Charlie Teagarden/tp on pieces such as “Rag Mop,” but the focus here is when he ruled the airwaves with gorgeous material like “Love Walked In,” “The Breeze and I” and one of the best reads of “Besame Mucho” you’ll ever come across. Dorsey was one of the few musicians of the Big Band era that could sound attractive to modern ears while still swinging hard enough for the jitterbugs. This 5 cd collection is one that will make you want to include Dorsey along with Johnny Hodges and Willie Smith as the best progenitors to Bird. Check it out!

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