Here’s a gem from You Tube.
The cut is from A Song is Born an otherwise forgettable movie from MGM (though directed by Howard Hawks).
The plot involves the girlfriend of a gangster who needs to disappear, when her boyfriend attracts the attention of the authorities. She hides by associating with Danny Kaye, and his friends, a group of nerdy music professors, working to document the history of Jazz.
When I first encountered this clip, did not remember the movie. I realized finally, that I seen it perhaps forty years ago, when I was not particularly interested in swing-era jazz.
The clip starts out as a history of jazz music, it portrays the contribution of African-American and Latin music to the evolution of this musical form.
Honestly, I don’t really like the score that much. It seems dated to my ears.
But it’s when the entire ensemble starts to play, you start to notice the incredible assembly of legends that were brought together for this musical production.
Professor Magenbruch on the clarinet, for instance, is played by the incomparable Benny Goodman. His old band mate, Lionel Hampton plays vibes. The patriarch of New Orleans Jazz, Louie Armstrong is familiar to our eyes on trumpet, but this should not diminish his legendary musical prowess.
Less well know perhaps to our generation, but equally extraordinary musicians present include bandleader Tommy Dorsey on trombone and jazz greats Charlie Barnett, and Mel Powell, on sax and piano duties respectively. The beat is maintained by a young-looking Louis Belson on the drum set and Harry Babasin on bass.
I don’t know of any other occasion where so many jazz luminaries were brought together.
Against this assembly of talent, Virginia Mayo, seems to handle the vocals nicely. Her singing however, was likely dubbed.
Though not evident here, Danny Kaye was also a gifted vocal performer.
Clips like this make me yearn for days gone by when performers, by and large, were actually masters of their craft, and elevated to stardom on that basis, rather than on the marketing of their sexual exploits and tawdry behavior.
Forty years ago, at least to me, an assemblage of talent like this like this, was not particularly noteworthy.
It seems noteworthy now.