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Bunny Berigan: Elusive Legend of Jazz by Robert Dupuis

There’s a moment on Tommy Dorsey’s RCA Victor recording of “Marie” when time seems to stand still. It’s when trumpeter Bunny Berigan steps forward to the solo microphone after Jack Leonard’s vocal and creates one of the memorable moments of the swing era. It’s a solo of such symmetry, lyricism and logic that Dorsey later had it arranged for the whole trumpet section, making it stand out in almost luminous brilliance. Yet until Robert Dupuis’ biography little was known of this apparently charming man who treated his huge gift so lightly that he was dead through drink by the age of 33.

Dupuis charts the ups and downs of this life engaged to disaster with engaging clarity and affection: the early years as a first-call New York session musician, his famous stints in the bands of Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, where he created classic solos seemingly at will, his affair with singer Lee Wiley and his own doomed big band, which produced just one hit, “I Can’t Get Started.” Dupuis’ biography shines light into a forgotten corner of jazz history to reveal a portrait of a genuine talent that provides a valuable counterpoint to the music of this now-forgotten trumpet master.

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