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Caught in the Act
It is still very exciting to fans of the big dance bands of the 1930's and 40's to be able to see and hear the great music of these legendary orchestras. On Sunday night, September 19 1999, James L. Dean Presented his big band in concert at Tierney's Tavern in Montclair, New Jersey, honoring the legendary bands of Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.
Shaw a bandleader of great success was best known for breaking up successful bands. As soon one of his bands achieved success he would disband the group for no apparent reason and just walk away. He led five distinctive bands to stardom an uncanny feat for even the best of the big band leaders. "Begin the Beguine" and "Frenesi" are probably his best known recordings.
Known as "The King of Swing", Benny Goodman revolutionized dance music for a generation of bobby-soxers in the late 30's and 40's. His swing style of music was the dance craze to the youngsters of the day. The Benny Goodman big dance band toured the country to record crowds. One of three bands on the very successful "Let's Dance" radio series Goodman showed it was possible to put jazz and dance music together. He also enjoyed success with his trio of Teddy Wilson (piano) and Gene Krupa (drums), an uncanny combination.
Bandleader Dean, a fine clarinetist and sax player, went to great expense to obtain lost charts of the Artie Shaw band which he located at the University of Arizona. Dean traveled to the University and met with the music librarian in order to obtain copies and the rights to use the charts. Some of the tunes hadn't been played in over fifty years as they were exclusive to Artie Shaw and were kept under lock and key.
He alternated the Goodman and Shaw numbers in two sets and features solos by various members of the band. He led the evening off with Artie Shaw's theme song, "Nightmare" it was followed by Ray Conniffs, "Jumping On The Merry-Go-Round." Vocalist, Patti Dunham mesmerized the audience with her rendition of "Any Old Time" a number popularized by the legend, Billie Holiday during her short stay with the Artie Shaw Band. Dunham also did a tune which was said to have been banned in the United States in 1936. Known as the Budapest Suicide Song, "Gloomy Sunday" is said to have led twenty-five people in Hungary to commit suicide after hearing the tune. Hard to believe whether this is true or not. Ms. Dunham also entertained the audience with "Now We Know ", "This Time The Dream's On You" and the popular tune, "Bill".
Benny Goodman's rendition of the ballad, "Fiesta In Blue" featured a fine solo by trumpeter, Spanky Davis. An old Louis Armstrong favorite, written by Fletcher Henderson "Down South Camp Meeting" had trumpeter, Stew Carangelo on solo. The James L. Dean sax section was featured on Goodman's, "Mission To Moscow", while drummer, Scott Hazen brought down the house with his sensational drum solo on "Sing. Sing, Sing."
Trombonist, Ben Williams was in top form with his solo on Artie Shaw's, "St. Louis Blues" as Shaw's arraignment of "A Foggy Day" again featured Spanky Davis. Dean's solo on "Dancing In The Dark" would certainly have met Shaw's approval. Both James L. Dean and Patti Dunham collaborated on Benny Goodman's "Why Don't You Do Right." "I Could Write A Book" from the Broadway musical, "Pal Joey" had James L. Dean joined by Davis on trumpet and Richard Reiter on tenor sax. Another member of the sax section, John Asti rendered a fine solo on Goodman's "Oh Baby."
Dean closed the show with a beautiful ballad sung by Patti Dunham, "Goodbye" which was Benny Goodman's closing theme. She did the first chorus followed by Dean and the band. The evening was filled with wonderful sounds of the past to the delight of many patrons who remembered these long lost arrangements.
The members of The James L. Dean big band are: rhythm section; Josh Rubin (guitar), Scott Hazen (drums) and Ron Naspo (bass) Saxes; John Asti and Richard Reiter (tenor sax, clarinet) with Sal Granato and Jeff Zelinick (alto, clarinet). The trombone section featured Matty Bilyk, Ben Williams and Phil Jones while the trumpets had Ray Vansco, Steve Carangelo, Spanky Davis and John Somers (who also leads his own big band, The John Somers Dream Band). Patti Dunham is the vocalist for the band.
The James L. Dean Big Band was formed in 1995. They have appeared at Solari's in Hackensack, Jason's Pub in Belmar, Barry's Country Clubs in Mountain Ridge and White Beaches, The Cedar Grove Inn, Nick's Oak Room in Carlstadt, The Gate House in West Orange and the Palace in Bound Brook plus many private functions. Many well known celebrity musicians have been featured at different times with the band. Latin Jazz trumpeter, Claudio Roditi has made several appearances with the band. Tenor great, George Coleman and singers, Marlene Ver Planck and Julie Budd have also performed with the band. The band has also backed the popular singer, Jerry Vale in concert.
The James L. Dean Big Band has scheduled additional concerts at Tierney's on Monday nights. Call Tierney's at 973-744-9785 to learn of future dates.