Sunday, August 07, 2005

Big-band lounge by Hugo

Much postwar pop was in a big-band mode, so I've always regarded Hugo Winterhalter's swingier Columbia and RCA sides to be par for the bandstand. But we live in an age of micro-labeling everything, so let's call Winterhalter's more big-band lounge sides "big-band lounge." The larger category would be "postwar Winterhalter." Specifically, postwar Winterhalter with a prewar edge. Which would make a good novelty song-title.

Hugo, of course, had written pre-postwar big band arrangements for Jack Jenney, Claude Thornhill, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie, among others. After the war, he worked at MGM and Columbia, before spending thirteen years at RCA. His biggest Columbia hit was Jealous Heart, possibly the example of big-band lounge: Jealous Heart, Hugo Winterhalter and His Orchestra and Chorus, 1949.

It's possible I typed too soon. The more I think about it, maybe the ultimate example of big-band lounge is Hugo's 1952 Hesitation, recorded for RCA. Let's pause to give it a listen: Hesitation (Winterhalter), Hugo Winterhalter and His Orchestra, 1952.

Arranger Ray Conniff always gets the credit for treating human voices as part of the instrumental mix, but it sounds to me as if that's exactly what Hugo is doing on these two sides. Just my ears, maybe. Certainly, we could be forgiven for thinking that we're hearing the Ray Conniff Singers eight years before they officially debuted on vinyl. More of the Conniff-esque Hugo Winterhalter Singers to come....

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