Today is Palm Sunday, at least for Christians. This offers me the opportunity to play one
of Harry James’ forgotten ballads with a slightly syrupy vocal by Fran Heines:
Palms Of Paradise, recorded for Varsity on February 12, 1940 (Varsity 8194).
Fran Heines (voc) Harry James, Nick Buono, Claude Bowen, Jack Palmer (tpt’s) Truett Jones, Dalton Rizzotto, Bruce Squires (tb) Claude Lakey (tp, as, ts, arr) Dave Matthews (as, arr) Vido Musso (ts) Chuck Gentry (bar) Jack Gardner (p) Ben Heller (g) Thurman Teague (b) Mickey Scrima (d)
I love the unpretentious sound of the first Harry James Orchestra between 1939 and 1941. The boys were bursting with creativity, the charts represented a nice mixture of jazz & pop & novelties, and the (infamous?) “schmaltz” didn’t drop too heavily yet, although splashes of it were audible already.
Alas, as soon as Harry started to sport a string section, and after he took over Glenn Miller’s sede vacante at the Chesterfield Radio Show (August 1942), the innocent times were over: It was “Bumblebee & Bathing Beauty Time” from then on; playing swingin’ jazz wasn’t Harry’s main goal anymore.
In the succeeding years, Harry James became the USA’s “Trumpeter No. 1”, and remained seated on that throne until “my” man Dizzy arrived on the scene (that’s my subjective view, of course!), respectively when “Mr. Gee” Gillespie whipped his own orchestra into shape in 1945, crowned with a recording contract at RCA-Victor (1946-1949).
And how did Harry react? He simply dropped the strings, hired a bunch of young, and eager arrangers (among them Neal Hefti and Johnny Richards) and started to bop; and that quite credibly. But that’s another story.