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Tommy Dorsey Orchestra fires up dancers during Big Band Weekend
Sunday, 03 February 2019 21:01
By JOHN NORTH
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Dance enthusiasts seized the opportunity to “relive the swing era” to the music of the One and Only Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, featuring singer Brian Anthony, which was the centerpiece of the annual Big Band Weekend on Jan. 11-12 at the Omni Resorts Grove Park Inn.

About 200 tickets for the dance had been sold as of late Jan. 11, but attendance usually jumps for the final night.

Anthony, who previously performed in the off-Broadway show “Our Sinatra,” described the TDO as “jazzier” than the Glenn Miller Band in a recent ineterview.

The 16-piece band, which about eight decades ago included Frank Sinatra as its featured singer, was comprised of 13 horn-players, a drummer, a standup bass player and a pianist. In addition, there was Anthony providing occasional vocals and the bandleader.

Sinatra joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1940, when it was ranked No. 1. As critics noted, Sinatra only made the TDO that much better. Sinatra made 80 recordings from 1940 to 1942 with the Dorsey band.

The GPI show featured Sinatra songs from across the decades, but was not performed as an attempt at impersonation. Indeed, one lesser-known song (the first written by Sinatra) “This Love of Mine” is one Anthony professes to love.

The band played three sets on Jan 11, but, because of time constraints, this review covers only the first two sets.

A memorable moment in the show occurred when Anthony told the crowd that “it’s so lovely to be here in the beautiful...” — and paused in apparent deep thought, then said with a smile, “Grove Park Inn?” The audience chuckled at his brief confusion over his whereabouts (as did Anthony).

Immediately prior to the show, some audience members showed up early and patiently waited outside the GPI’s Grand Ballroom, when several band members filed through the crowd and into ballroom to set up for the show. One of those in the crowd told the Daily Planet that several people said they were excited to see the show, to which one of the band members smiled and joked in an obviously self-deprecating manner, “We’re just the waiters!” Reportedly, those present laughed and appreciated the musicians’ humility.

The first set highlight was Anthony’s singing and the TDO’s performance of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Between sets, a TDO horn player who spoke to the Daily Planet on the condition of anonymity, said that, with that song,” “you’ve got the holy trinity” — with melody and lyrics by Cole Porter, vocals (originally) by Sinatra and arrangement by Nelson Riddle.

Among the other memorable first-set songs were “Pennies From Heaven,” “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week),” “Opus One,” “Song of India” and, perhaps most notable, “I’ll Never Smile Again,” the latter of which was the TDO’s biggest hit single and featured Sinatra on vocals. It was No. 1 for 12 weeks on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1940.

Second-set song highlights included “Green Eyes,” Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo,” Dean Martin’s version of “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Marie,” “Hawaiian War Chant” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

Regarding “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” the band leader noted that “this is one of the quintessential songs of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.”

The third set listed such classics as Cole Porter’s mangum opus “Night and Day,” “T.D.’s Boogie Woogie” and “Night Train.”

A mild disappointment was the omission of at least one TDO standard — “On Treasure Island.”

The TDO was founded by Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956), who was a jazz trombonist, composer, conductor and bandleader in the Big Band era. “He was known as the ‘Sentimental Gentleman of Swing’ because of his smooth-toned trombone playing,” according to Wikipedia, which added that he led “an extremely popular and highly successful band from the late 1930s into the 1950s.”


 



 


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