Occupying a higher-plain strata of eclectic vocalists headed by Mel Torme, the incredibly gifted Matt Dennis (1914 - 2002) was a "Jack of all trades" singer, pianist, bandleader, arranger, and song-writer. Born in Seattle, Matt emanated from a musical family consisting of violinist mother and singer father with roots firmly set in vaudeville. In 1933 he joined the Horace Heidt Orchestra as singer and pianist; later forming his own band, with the up-coming Dick Haymes as vocalist; moved on to become vocal coach, arranger, and accompanist for Martha Tilton; arranging and accompanying Margaret Whiting, and assisting new vocal group, The Stafford Sisters until one of them, Jo, broke away to join the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1940 - taking Matt with her as arranger and composer for the band. Fourteen of his compositions were recorded by the Dorsey band during the early Forties including EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME which was an early hit for the band's vocalist Frank Sinatra.
Matt's solo career produced half-a-dozen noteworthy original albums, which transferred to CD, are nowadays rare and sure to demand high prices. Fortunately, this Jasmine two-disc set contains four of them, and what a treat they are! MATT DENNIS PLAYS AND SINGS MATT DENNIS is a 1958-released set of live recordings which showcases a dozen co-composed numbers with just Matt's vocals and piano tinkling accompanied by drums and bass. Many of these songs have maintained their durability over the years with VIOLETS FOR YOUR FURS, THE NIGHT WE CALLED IT A DAY, ANGEL EYES, LET'S GET AWAY FROM IT ALL and of course EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME amongst them. No wonder Sinatra recorded them! On the swinging WE BELONG TOGETHER and amusingly wistful WHEN YOU LOVE A FELLA, Matt duets with Virginia Maxey who would later become his life-long partner in marriage. Spreading the net wider, the 1955 album SHE DANCES OVERHEAD; now retitled to fit its songbook form as THE SONGS OF RODGERS AND HART has an orchestra headed by Harry Geller, with Matt offering superb versions of BLUE MOON, ISN'T IT ROMANTIC, MOUNTAIN GREENERY and similar classics from The Great American Songbook.
The second CD contains DENNIS - ANYONE? - released in 1955 and featuring the singer with small group in live performance with another selection of co-composed songs WITH WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? SHOW ME THE WAY TO GET OUT OF THIS WORLD and ten lesser-known but welcome numbers. The final album WELCOME MATT DENNIS points up a selection of songs associated with home and family. SHOW ME THE WAY TO GO HOME,BY THE FIRESIDE, YOU'D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO, MY BLUE HEAVEN and LET'S PUT OUT THE LIGHTS are amongst songs which shine from Matt's renditions with Sy Oliver supplying the orchestral accompaniment.
Great sound, great singer and four great albums! What more could anyone wish for?
Here are 4 albums from the late 1950s from not a household name in the UK and yet a very well known composer in his own right. One of the albums is a live recording and if you are of a certain age then you will recognise the songs written by Matt Dennis. He then sings the songs of Rodgers and Hart with orchestral backings. Next up comes Dennis Anyone again a live album but the less well known material and finally Welcome Matt Dennis is a delightful mix of standards and original material backed by Sy Oliver. Well worth a listen to and at a great price. A nice piece of compiling from Jasmine.