CD, Sixteen Bucks; Dorsey, Priceless

Chapter Six, "Swing High: More White Bands," of Bruce Crowther and Mike Pinfold's The Big Band Years begins, beneath the sub-header, "DANCING ON THE CEILING," with a quote from The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing, Tommy Dorsey: "They paid $1.75 to get in; let's give 'em $3.50 worth."

Today, on the 103rd anniversary of TD's birth, with five Dorsey discs shuffling around in the CD player upstairs and "Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, 1938" pouring from the computer speakers before which I sit, I consider the tremendous kick given me by the music of the Irish-American Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr., my favorite musician. Dorsey, peerless legit player and facile hot man; his arrangers, my favorite, Sy Oliver, and Paul Weston, Axel Stordahl, Deane Kincaide, Bill Finegan; his musicians, my favorite trumpeter, Bunny Berigan, and Ziggy Elman, Bud Freeman, Charlie Shavers, Buddy Rich, Joe Bushkin, Dave Tough, Johnny Mince, Don Lodice; and his vocalists, my favorite, Jo Stafford, and Frank Sinatra, The Pied Pipers, Jack Leonard, Dick Haymes, Edythe Wright, Stuart Foster, could deliver – something for everybody. The Dorsey crews had no weak spots, no holes; all of the many aggregations fronted by Dorsey in his 20-plus year bandleading career were able to alternate between quiet, crawl tempo romantic ballads and blazing, pounding killer-dillers with ease, assurance and authority.

Tommy Dorsey died – one week to the day after his 51st birthday – not quite ten years before I was born, so I never got that $3.50 value live performance for a $1.75 admission. (Oh, how I wish I had been around in the '30's and '40's!) I have gotten, though, something from that trombone and those bands, on records, now transferred to compact disc, whose worth is inestimable.

Dig Dorsey today!