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At the height of his fame Tommy Dorsey was one of the most popular band-leaders of the swing era and a major stylist on his instrument - the trombone.
No musician who has heard his wonderful, haunting solo feature "I`m Getting Sentimental Over You" - which became his signature tune - can fail to respect the technical mastery of the high register, the breath control displayed in the phrasing and the sheer beauty of the sound.
Dorsey the man was rather at odds with this picture. As a band-leader he was a martinet; driven by his own perfectionism, he expected it in others - his volatile moods resulted in almost continuous changes in the personnel of his bands with hiring, firing and re-hiring of musicians almost a matter of routine. An astute businessman and clued-up master of his profession, he was always commercially mindful of how best to develop both his music and his band's presentation - he hired the best arrangers, players and singers - and sometimes he was willing to be indulgent of his performers faults (the juvenile antics of Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich, a case in point) - if it kept the band at the standard he wanted. His activities took in film appearances, publishing a music- trade magazine and a TV. Show (he wouldn't have liked his music much, but Dorsey presented Elvis Presley to the American public before the Ed Sullivan Show appearances).
Inevitably, as a biography such as this must do, there are comparisons with his equally talented brother Jimmy. Jimmy was, early in his career a major stylist on clarinet and alto sax; a genuinely nice guy and far more likable than the unpredictable Tommy, but he lacked the drive and organisational discipline his brother had, leading to the break-up of their band, each brother striking out for themselves with different results.
Levinson`s book is probably the most concise and exhaustive study on this complicated, gifted man; he could be generous and there were many who saw different aspects of him - this book tells it all - if you are at all seriously interested in Dorsey - you've read this far after all - then this is the book to have - I could not recommend it more highly.
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on 31 August 2011
Brilliant book, very detailed. Not at all sentimental or sloppy. Packed with facts and quotes. Makes references to so many other musicians and orchestras you want to read up on those too. A must for Tommy Dorsey fans.
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on 25 July 2015
Excellent book week worth the money. A valuable addition.
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