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Gene Krupa/Harry James: The Complete Capitol Recordings of Gene Krupa and Harry James

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At the height of their success as star soloists with the Benny Goodman orchestra in 1938 and 1939, respectively, drummer Gene Krupa and trumpeter Harry James left to form their own bands. Despite their obvious talents and popularity, however, neither had an easy start. For different reasons, breakthrough success did not immediately come for either of them. In Krupa’s case, its arrival had to do with his acquisition in 1941 of two vibrant jazz artists, trumpeter Roy Eldridge and singer Anita O’Day. With James’ success came after he decided to direct his formidable technique and excessively rich vibrato toward virtuosic showpieces and romantic ballads, a combination enhanced by his glamorous persona and widely celebrated marriage to one of Hollywood’s and the war effort’s most valued assets, superstar Betty Grable.

Mosaic’s chapter in Krupa’s history begins a few years after the leader’s notorious 1942-43 troubles, which, because of their sensationalistic treatment by the press, nearly wrecked his career. Thanks to Goodman and Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic, he was back on his feet again well before the time of the recordings heard here. Represented on the first four discs by 74 commercially unreleased tracks cut for Capitol’s radio transcription service, the Krupa band of February 1946 through February 1947 boasted such jazz soloists as tenorman Charlie Ventura, trumpeter Red Rodney, altoman Charlie Kennedy, trombonist Dick Taylor, pianist Teddy Napoleon, tenorman Buddy Wise and hip vocalists Buddy Steward and Caroline Grey. The invariably forward-looking arrangers whom Krupa sought out were Ed Finckel, Jimmy Mundy, Budd Johnson, George Williams, Ray Biondi, and his erstwhile section altoman, Gerry Mulligan, whose “Indiana,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Bird House” and “Margie” constitute the young bopper’s only charts documented here. There are, predictably, a number of features allocated to the overly arranged, fussy Jazz Trio of Krupa, Ventura and Napoleon, but these are offset to a large degree by the swinging big band charts and the solos of the principals.

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