Saturday, November 12, 2005

Exotica through the years, part 4: More big band exotica

This time, it's Paul Whiteman, Harry James, Freddy Martin, Harry Roy, Ted Weems, and... Andre Kostelanetz? Yup, Andre Kostelanetz, whose pre-Columbia-label orchestra could perhaps be termed a really big band. His acres-of-strings sound had yet to show up on shellac.

And here's Andre's really big band on the Brunswick label with Coubacaban, from 1937:

Coubacaban (Escarpenter--Morejon), Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch., 1937.

Next, it's Andre again with Xavier Cugat's My Sombrero, from the same year and label:

My Sombrero (Cugat--Stillman), Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch., 1937.

Now, Harry James and Frank Sinatra take us to a little street in Singapore, courtesy of lyricist Billy Hill and tunewriter Peter (Deep Purple) De Rose. In spite of the minor noise on this track, the selection is in a "Major key," to use NPR's phrase. Sophisticated melody, inane lyrics. The big band era was full of those.

On a Little Street in Singapore (Hill--De Rose), Harry James and His Orch., featuring Frank Sinatra, 1937.

This next piece of Roosevelt-era exotica takes place At the Cross Roads. Harry Roy's pop-song adaptation of Ernesto Lecuona's Malaguena features skillful exoti-crooning by Marjorie Kingsley:

At the Cross Roads, Harry Roy and His Orchestra, feat. Marjorie Kingsley, 1943.

Andre's really big band returns with Harold Mooney's Swamp Fire, from 1938 (and Brunswick):

Swamp Fire (Mooney), Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra, 1938.

From 1947, here's Freddy Martin and His Orchestra with pianist Barclay Allen's own Cumana:

Cumana (Barclay Allen--Roc Hillman--Harold Spina), Freddy Martin and His Orch., featuring Barclay Allen, 1947.

From 1933, Ted Weems' mega-after-the-fact-hit Heartaches, rendered rumba-style. This track is invariably labeled corny or worse, but it's extremely well-arranged, and Weems' musicians were some of the very best of the big band period. I suspect that Elmo Tanner's whistling has a lot to do with the disrespect accorded this superb dance record. Besides, corny is O.K. at Vintage Lounge:

Heartaches (John Klenner--Al Hoffman), Ted Weems and His Orch., featuring Elmo Tanner, 1933.

Paul Whiteman closes this set with four excellent tracks, beginning with Ferde Grofe's quite imaginative arrangement of Narciso Serradel Sevilla's big 19th-century hit, La Golondrina (The Swallow):

La Golondrina (Sevilla, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1928.

Next, Rimsky-Korsakov's Hymn to the Sun, as Fox-Trot-ized by Ferde:

Hymn to the Sun (Rimsky-Korsakov, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1936 radio broadcast.

I don't know, but I'm guessing that Victor Herbert isn't a big name in exotica history. Perhaps he should be--listen to his Cuban and Oriental serenades from the 1924 Suite of Serenades, as recorded by Paul Whiteman in 1928:

Suite of Serenades--Cuban (Herbert, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1928.

Suite of Serenades--Oriental (Herbert, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1928.

Big band exotica at--where else?--Vintage Lounge.

Lee (afraid he may have broken Spell Check with this post)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude this is simply the coolest thing ive found on the web for days. thank you so much for your time and dedication! i'm swoonin'...

1:19 AM  
Anonymous Liam said...

I'll second that. All in all, you've got some astounding music on this site. It's quite an education for me, as I was more or less oblivious to this genre until now. So, many thanks. I'm a ex-pat Brit at the moment, so your sounds are gracing Holland at the moment. All the best, mate.

4:32 AM  
Anonymous David Federman said...


Little by little you have made a very persuasive case for the genius of Ferde Grofe, especailly in his Paul Whiteman days. Could you please post the Whiteman recording of "The Grand Canyon Suite" from, I believe, 1931. I have a new recording by the Dutch Metropole Orcheatra but I am told the original Whiteman performance has never been surpassed. Furthermore, friends tell me the 1931 arrangement of the Grand Canyon Suite is far superior to the later one.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Byron Los Angeles said...

Thanks for more Vintage Lounge Lee!
Byron Los Angeles

12:57 PM  
Blogger Lee Hartsfeld said...

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words. The feedback is highly appreciated. This post was one of the more time-consuming, for some reason--possibly because the examples had to so period-specific. You'd think that would make the task easier, but it didn't! It's almost like compiling an entire CD with a three-hour deadline! But I love it. The most fun I've had in ages.


Yes, Grofe was a very significant popular figure, if not the greatest American composer of his time, as Etude claimed. But neither was the "pap" master he came to be regarded as by critics. One of my favorite pans of Grofe questions why Toscanini would have bothered with "such a trifle," I think the term was--referring to the "Grand Canyon Suite." All I know is that his story is quite amazing--from arranging for Art Hickman and Paul Whiteman to writing Toscanini's favorite American work. What a resume.

The 1931 "Grand Canyon" does have some moments I prefer to the expanded orchestration, and I'd love to post it. But storage space doesn't permit it. The 1931 version has been reissued on CD--don't have the information handy. Send me an e-mail to discuss file trading and/or reissue info. I know for sure that has it. It's something everyone should hear.


6:33 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Lee, I have to "third" what anonymous and liam said: Great mp3 blog! Thanks for putting this kind of music out there.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Lee Hartsfeld said...

Thanks, Mike!

Christmas posts (at my MYPWHAE blog) are keeping me busy at the moment, but new stuff will be going up soon at this location. To the extent that anything literally "new" shows up here!


10:02 PM  

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