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Pride & Prejudice Season 1
Pride & Prejudice Season 1
Price: $10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST version of Jane Austen's Classic!, September 23, 2012
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This is still the best version of Austen's novel out there--the miniseries format allows the novel to be treated in sufficient detail, while the pacing keeps the plot moving forward. The chemistry between Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth is the best reason to check out the series, but there are some terrific supporting performances as well, from Julia Sawalha (Lydia Bennet), Adrian Lukis (Mr. Wickham), Cripin Bonham-Carter (Mr. Bingley), Anna Chancellor (Miss Bingley), David Bamber (Mr. Collins), and Benjamin Whitrow (Mr. Bennet), as well as a host of other great British actors in supporting roles. The miniseries format also allows the film to fully explore the dynamics of the less central relationships (between Elizabeth and her friend Charlotte Lucas, for example, or the Gardiners who come to play such a crucial role in the final scenes). The end result is that one sees the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy against the backdrop of an actual community rather than having them be the stand-out "normal" people in a world of silly stick-figures. Well worth the purchase price and the time!

Hot Toys Don Vito Corleone - The Godfather 12" Figure
Hot Toys Don Vito Corleone - The Godfather 12" Figure

5.0 out of 5 stars An iconic figure, May 2, 2012
Sideshow Collectibles and Hot Toys do some inspired work, but this one is one of their greatest. An iconic actor in one of his most iconic roles. The likeness is uncanny. He comes with his own chair, in his tux as he is in the first scene of the movie. He has his cat. The different sets of hands are all taken from distinctive Brando hand gestures. Amazing!

That said, the figure first listed for about $150. It's now no longer being produced and Sideshow is out of stock. But anyone who would pay more than $300 for it is either obsessed, fabulously wealthy with nothing to spend money on, or out of his or her mind. Keep looking and these figures will turn up at reasonable prices.

Life in a Medieval City (Medieval Life)
Life in a Medieval City (Medieval Life)
by Joseph Gies
Edition: Paperback
205 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to medieval social history, January 15, 2012
Reading through the reviews on this site, the words that keep coming up are "informed" and "accessible." I agree with both of those assessments, but I feel they don't really capture what it means to read this book. Bottom line for me--you'll learn a lot, and it's exciting to read.

When I first came upon these books, I was a college freshman. Now I'm a university professor. And while today, I may take issue with some of the things the authors write, I still find the books as fresh as I did well over 25 years ago. These books are an introduction for the non-specialist with an interest in the Middle Ages. Historians tend to forget that for all students there was a time before they knew any of the details or terms that are used to study historical periods. This book remembers that, and introduces readers to those terms.

But that introduction is also done in terms of a vibrant narrative style. One reviewer--in "A Kid's Review"--said exactly what s/he liked about the presentation. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of life in the city, whether one is a merchant, craftsman, housewife, musician, doctor, etc. And each is also written in a narrative style that doesn't distract the reader with historical references.

The danger of this kind of writing is that it presents interpretations as though they were facts, and draws large generalizations from isolated examples. But if readers want to quibble, they can always do further reading and gain a more specific knowledge of the time. The great virtue of this writing style is that it pulls people in, and even readers who might be only casually interested in medieval history will find themselves engaged.

I for one am glad the Gieses published as many books as they published. Read this one--you won't be disappointed!

Life in a Medieval Village
Life in a Medieval Village
by Joseph Gies
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.67
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid scholarship but poor presentation, January 15, 2012
The Gieses have produced a number of good books for the general reader on aspects of medieval life. When I first came across this one years ago, I was excited to see a new general work by these authors on living conditions. I had loved both "Life in a Medieval City" and "Life in a Medieval Castle," and was hoping that "Life in a Medieval Village" would complete the trilogy and help me round out the picture.

What I found was that this new work simply didn't excite me. Part of that might have been because I had not known very much about medieval life when I came across the first two books in the early 1980s. Since then I had become a bit more conversant with scholarship on the Middle Ages. But it wasn't the scholarship that put me off. In truth, "Life in a Medieval Village" was actually written in a much more clearly scholarly way than the first two books had been. And yet the first books retained their interest for me, while this one was more of chore to get through. So why didn't I like it better?

The answer, strangely enough, was that the openness of the scholarly enterprise actually made this book less vivid, less readable to me than the other two. "Life in a Medieval City" and "Life in a Medieval Castle" attempted to do just what their titles implied--bring to life a vanished culture in all its glory. "Life in a Medieval Village," by contrast, is weighed down by its attempt to involve the reader in the intricacies of the historical enterprise itself. The authors spend a great deal of time, for instance, trying to explain the difficulties of even defining what a village might have been. The reader is plunged into the world of scholarly uncertainty, into the discussion of what we can or cannot conclude from archaeology, parish records, etc. Only after this introduction do the two authors guide the reader back to the shallows--the narratives of exactly what villagers did with their daily lives, which is where most readers wanted to be in the first place.

Now I am aware that many conscientious historians wish to offer qualifications for their conclusions, lest in their writing they lead readers astray. While this kind of source-paranoia serves an academic community well, however, it does not work the same way for a general readership. Too honest a discussion of source material and uncertainty undercuts the historical narrative which is the source of the real pleasure in reading history. The readers will recognize the historical problems the writers present, but they can no longer be pleased.

It sounds as if I'm suggesting that pleasure and honesty are mutually exclusive when it comes to history. That's not what I mean to imply. Someone can read a historical narrative, take pleasure in it, and then decide to look into that narrative a little more carefully to see if there is anything that could have or should have been done a little differently. In adopting the procedural-sharing style of writing they do in "Life in a Medieval Village," the Gieses force the readers to confront the historical problems they have faced themselves, whether the readers want to do so or not. In so doing, I believe, they disempower their own writing and lose many of their readers.

That's my reservation about this work, and why I've only given it three stars rather than four. It's not that there is anything wrong with the work (although I agree with the historical qualifications provided by all of the other reviewers on this site). It's that it just isn't exciting.

If you've read other work by the Gieses, I'd say this is a worthy addition and will probably help to paint a broader picture of medieval life. But if this is your first time, and you haven't read a lot of medieval history, then I suggest buying "Life in a Medieval City" and "Life in a Medieval Castle" first. Those will get you excited about medieval history. This will not.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2012 12:29 PM PST

Conan Volume 0: Born on the Battlefield
Conan Volume 0: Born on the Battlefield
by Kurt Busiek
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.96
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of the warrior as a young man, September 5, 2011
This addition to the Conan series has become one of my favorites. In adding to the Howard corpus, one of the dangers is in trying to out-Howard Howard. Kurt Busiek's story wisely refrains, showing a restraint in developing the character from childhood in ways that look forward to Conan's later adventures but do not attempt to "continue" where Howard "left off." We see a young Conan struggling to establish himself among the other children as well as the elders of his clan, sporadic encounters with wolves and mountain lions, introduction to love, supernatural encounters, all leading up to the grand battle that eventually set him on the path that would take him away from his homeland. Ruth's artwork complements the story very well, with pencilling which is kept deliberately loose, heavy inking, and muted tones of brown, red, and green. It's as if we're looking at sepia-tinged photographs of an art rendering which is already half-impressionistic.

It's worth noting that some readers may not be happy with this art direction. One reviewer on this site goes so far as to claim that Ruth is attempting an imitation of Howard that looks inexpert and childish. In fact, there is very little of Howard in Ruth's work (the final image included in the sketchbook at the end of the book is a kind of loving parody of Howard). Those readers who are insistent on the pristine lines and dramatic contrasts of classic comic art may be similarly disappointed. But those who can open their minds to different approaches may find this quite wonderful.

Brass Attitude
Brass Attitude
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy, but not one of Maynard's best albums, July 24, 2010
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This review is from: Brass Attitude (Audio CD)
All of the previous reviews of this album date from around 1999 to 2000, around the time of its release. Naturally, they pick up the excitement of Maynard fans about the release. So I thought I would do a retrospective review.

It's not a bad album, and one of the nice things about it is that it features the members of Maynard's Big Bop Nouveau stretching in different directions, along with arrangers Tom Garling and Ron Oswanski experimenting with the the band's "typical" form. Sometimes this works nicely, and sometimes you have musical oddities which seem like experiments done for their own sake.

Take the opening "Just Friends," arranged by trombonist Tom Garling. At the top of the chart, Garling doesn't seem to know quite how he wants to open this very familiar standard. He tries two different ways to establish a "big band" tension, then seems to give up as he throws the head to the reeds while the bass and piano vacillate between a clumsy Latin-inspired line and incongruous Monk-style obbligato underneath the melody. When Maynard comes in and takes over the melody, the band finds its groove and the rest of the chart cooks, especially as Garling and Carl Fisher trade licks on the superbone, building to climactic introduction to Maynard's trumpet solo. That in turn leads surprisingly to a fugue-like interlude which is very nicely done. When the band returns together, they take it easy, in a Basie-like understated shout that builds tension once more. Then the arrangement ends in an unexpectedly subtle way.

That pattern, established by Garling's arrangement, pretty much defines the whole album. The band at times kicks into high gear, and their typical ability to sound like a much large band (reminiscent of Maynard's bands in the late 1950s), and at times embraces a smaller sound, sometimes follows out the patterns one has come to expect from Maynard, sometimes becomes quieter and even slightly abstract.

The second tune, "Waltz for Nicole," was written by Garling. It is a genial and swinging jazz waltz that features the arranger on trombone, with a very interesting piano solo by Ron Oswanski, and Maynard playing flugelhorn and sticking to the middle register on the trumpet solos (by which I really mean Maynard's middle register, which is the upper register for most trumpet players). There is another attempt at a subtle ending, this one not quite so successful as the first number.

The next piece, an arrangement of the Cole Porter standard "I Love You" by Maynard alumnus Steve Wiest, is much more successful. Wiest sets the tune to a Brazilian-inspired rhythm, leading to a nice solo by Garling on trombone, a largely unison shout chorus featuring David Throckmorton's drums. In the middle of it, the drums drop out, and the band continues with its shout without rhythm accompaniment, and quite remarkably tight. That chorus leads to another fugue-like interlude, but then quickly builds to a big finish featuring Maynard and Carl Fisher trading off trumpet shrieks to the final note.

"Milk of the Moon," written by pianist Ron Oswanski, is a showcase for Maynard's flugelhorn and a nice tenor solo by Sal Giorgianni. In the liner notes, Maynard says the tune is at times reminiscent of Gil Evans. At the risk of alienating all of Maynard's very devout fans, I have to say that the VOICINGS rather than the tune are reminiscent of Gil Evans. For the most part it rambles around without any particular direction or purpose. Oswanski uses the band like he's playing on his synthesizer, to explore harmonics and voice without much hint at melody. At more than seven and a half minutes, the song is a good four minutes too long--and what Maynard does not say, but what anyone with even a modest sense of jazz history will know, Gil Evans could make a statement in less than three minutes and still have room for soloists.

The next tune, "Misra-Dhenuka," allows Maynard to continue to explore his longtime fascination with India. It is based, he tells us, on a "raga" he learned in India. The raga, since the liner notes do not explain, is a modal approach to music that has a very long history. In the more fluid Indian tradition, there are 22 intervals (or shrutis) in an octave, rather than the 12 in the enharmonic Western tradition. Thus what for us would be enharmonic equivalents, like D# and Eb, are distinct tones to the Indian ear. In support of the Indian system, Maynard begins with a vocal rendition of the raga, picked up by the trombone, and pursued later by Maynard on the Firebird (his combination slide and valve trumpet).

The idea is cool, but I must confess that with my western ear (trombonist though I am), I can't distinguish flat tones from sharp tones. Still, the number, arranged by Maynard along with Ron Oswanski) is a good one. The opening sequence follows the Indian alpana tradition (which is sort of like an extended Western rubato), and then goes into 6/8 time. The problem is that the piece remains deeply embedded in its Indian roots, without ever making the shift into a more Spanish rhythm which the music itself keeps pushing to. Garling's trombone solo begins to establish a groove, but then the music slides back into its confined space. Oswanski also tries valiantly to kick the music into groove into his piano solo. There is a slow build to a full shout chorus, but the band seems never to break out. And the truth is, for all of its theoretical fluidity, the Indian musical tradition doesn't have anywhere near the freedom of jazz.

Following the solos, there are several more attempts to get east to meet west in a musical collaboration. But aside from isolated moments of excitement, the pairing never quite works. At nearly 16 minutes, the number is obviously meant to be a showpiece. But one is reminded of those moments in E.M. Foster's "Passage to India" where the befuddled Westerners try without success to discover profundity in the strange comments and behavior of the Brahman Dr. Godbole (his name sounds a bit like Odd Ball, and that was, I believe Forster's intention). In the final analysis this is one of those interesting experiments that never quite works. But it could be worse. It could be "free jazz."

"Knee Deep in Rio" is an easy samba by Garling, meant primarily to showcase the band's soloists. It begins with trombone and bass laying out the rhythm, then briefly into the head played by Mayanard on flugelhorn. After that it opens immediately into the capable solos, from Sal Giorgianni's tenor solo, to Paul Thompson's electric bass, Carl Fisher's nice trumpet work, David Throckmorton's consistently excellent drumming, and finally back to Maynard and out. If it's not very exciting, at least it's danceable.

"Erica and Sandra" is Maynard's paean to his grandchildren. It features Maynard on trumpet flugelhorn and Giorgianni on tenor ("played," we are told, "as a conversation between Erica and Sandra"). It's such a sweet idea, one almost can't be critical. But the truth is, the arrangement doesn't really hold together. In the middle of the song, we move into a nice Basie-Nestico style moment, but it's all too brief, and the listener is left wishing the conversation had been a little more animated.

"The Lip" is an arrangement by Maynard alumnus Denis DiBlasio. I'm sorry to say that nobody who has heard Louis Prima do this piece with Keely Smith will be a fan of this arrangement. DiBlasio's scatting is capable, but technical and without any real emotional content--you wind up longing for Prima or Satchmo. And once you begin to think that way, Big Bop Nouveau is, I'm afraid, quite lost. Because the song makes you think how much more brilliant and funny and hot that old Prima band was than these kids.

The final number, "Caruso," is an homage to the great tenor. It's really more of a sweet piece that ends the album on an unexpectedly quiet note and again, kind of makes this listener a little nostalgic for the days when Maynard would blow out his screams to "Vesti la giubba" from "Pagliacci" with a disco beat. It's nice to hear Maynard in a quiet mood, of course. But with nothing more here than flugelhorn and piano, you wind up thinking how much prettier Miles could play.

I love Maynard, have been a fan since I first heard him in the 1970s, have enjoyed him live a number of times, and I will always give his band a listen since they are always entertaining and are always comprised of strong soloists. But this is not the best work I've heard Maynard do.

The best album Maynard ever put out, by FAR, is "Chameleon." Those who are new to Maynard need to pick up that one. Then, the "Live at Jimmy's" album. After that, you can branch out a bit.

The Fabulous Dorseys
The Fabulous Dorseys
DVD ~ Tommy Dorsey
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Even Dorsey Fans Can Live Without It, July 21, 2010
This review is from: The Fabulous Dorseys (DVD)
When I was eight years old, and beginning to learn the trombone, my parents went out and bought me a two record set--"The Great Tommy Dorsey Orchestra: I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." For the next eight years I worked to sound like him, until I discovered Bill Watrous in my teens, and eventually Jay Jay Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Frank Rosolino, and others. I never lost my fondness for Tommy, though.

When I was younger, I was eager for footage of Dorsey playing. One of my favorite films was A SONG IS BORN, with Danny Kaye, and featuring Dorsey along with Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet, and many others including Benny Goodman in a real acting role. Even after I had moved on from Tommy as a model, footage of the old big band leaders was gold to me.

I wonder what I would have thought of THE FABULOUS DORSEYS had I seen it then. Would I have been excited just to see Tommy and Jimmy talk and put their instruments together? Or would I have noticed the difference between a film directed by Howard Hawks and one directed by, well, Alfred E. Green?

I think I would have been indulgent--the footage is of the Dorseys and others, after all. But I don't think I would have remembered it fondly. The film focuses on the embattled musical relationship between the two famous big band brothers, Tommy and Jimmy. The brothers can't seem to play together without fighting, and the movie chronicles the efforts of the people around them to convince the brothers to set their differences aside and play together--their apparently strict but really sentimental father, their loving mother, and their unexplained non-sister "Jane" (presumably a fictional replacement for their actual sister Mary--who may not have wanted to be included).

Green tells the story capably enough--but he tells it without much music. The only real musical highlights are full performances of "Marie" by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and "Green Eyes" by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (the two songs which would appear on different sides of the same single in 1954 when they were really reunited), and a jam session featuring Tommy and Jimmy playing with Charlie Barnet, Ziggy Elman, and Art Tatum. And that is the sum total of the musical interesting moments of the film.

That might be forgiven if the story was even remotely interesting. But the attempt to clean up and simplify actual events is disappointing, especially to anyone who actually knows something about the brothers. The distinction of the two boys by instrument is understandable, if a little silly; both brothers, like most people who play music for a living, played several instruments and would often each double on trumpet in the early days of their association. But other details are also left out. Tommy's perfectionism and poor sense of humor are depicted, but very little of his somewhat violent temper and his lurid love life. The fact that the brothers were both more successful on their own is never explored--so insistent is the film on its own master-plot of bringing the two of them back together.

One explanation for this would be that the reunion between the brothers was in the works when the film first appeared. Driven by the promotional needs of the musical reunion, Green's work is bent on representing the potential greatness of the two brothers when they join forces. In the film itself, by the way, the agency of the reunion is their participation in a concerto featuring trombone and clarinet and conducted by the venerable Paul Whiteman. There is no need to reflect on the value of this moment from a musical standpoint. Does anyone even know of a recording of this distinguished moment? Has it appeared on any of the "Best Of" collections of either brother?

The other explanation is Green himself. His later career includes a number of biopics--THE FABULOUS DORSEYS, THE JOLSON STORY, THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY, THE EDDIE CANTOR STORY--so perhaps he was seen as the man to use in that genre. But a look at his whole career will show you that he was quite prolific in directing movies-you've-never-heard-of.

A year after THE FABULOUS DORSEYS came out, Howard Hawks' Danny Kaye vehicle, A SONG IS BORN was released. If you really want to watch a fun movie about the big bands, buy that one.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maynard--Bless Him!, July 19, 2010
This review is from: Carnival (Audio CD)
The one thing you'd have to say about Maynard, whatever you may feel about his talent and his taste, is that he never stood still. He remained throughout his life one of the most forward-thinking and moving big band leaders. And whatever the size of his band, it was always a BIG band.

A lot of nonsense has been said here regarding Maynard's musical "genius" and his superhuman qualities. This is also forgivable because Maynard was above all a man who loved life and loved music and loved playing. Live, he could get away with the most extraordinarily ridiculous postures because, bless him, he believed them! To call him to account for this silliness would be sort of like tearing apart the idea of Santa Claus. Whatever you may think in your heart, you just don't do it.

Less forgivable, I think, are the nasty-minded critics who attack Maynard for almost everything from poor technique to tastelessness in playing and costume and his open commercialism. All of which might be true. But, you know, this guy was the Liberace of the trumpet. He had fun, and he invited his audiences to join in the fun with him. It didn't matter if you were a hot player or a poor player or could play at all or if you were super cool or if you were a dork. With Maynard the party never stopped. And you were invited, Sparky.

This is Maynard's party album par excellence. Joyous, exuberant, and affirmative in every respect. There are moments on the album that are cheesy, moments that are dramatic, moments that are hot, moments that are ridiculous, but not a single one that is less than pure fun.

The charge of commercialism leveled against Maynard, often framed in terms of his desire to appropriate popular music for its own sake, is simply off the mark. The tunes here cannot be called commercial, because even in his most apparently commercial choices, he crosses over and combines musical forms. He is at his most experimental here. The opening number, "Carnival," mostly Brazilian-inspired, is a combination of a number of Latin forms, from the flamenco guitar and obligato trumpet opening to streetlike Brazilian piccolo, straight into its transformation into American disco with a samba-esque bass line, and then just as suddenly into funk and back to free-moving disco again. That opening announces what the album will be, and the rest of the numbers follow out the theme.

The second piece is Maynard's version of the Earth Wind and Fire classic "Fantasy," which is probably the most conformable to the feeling of musical experimentation and overlap. Here, the band moves back and forth between fusion-style neo-chamber music to deep funk, again as if searching for the free space of smooth disco. In the middle of the piece, trumpeter Joe Mosello plays a lovely tongue-in-cheek interlude on the piccolo trumpet, followed by the first of many uses of a backup group of female singers who open the way for more open singing of the whole band. Alas, Maynard elects to end with the sloppy device of a fadeout, which happens over and over again on this album (in fact, quite frequently in this period of the band in general).

"Theme from Battlestar Gallactica" (arranged by trombonist Nick Lane) is probably the most egregiously silly, with its driving disco beat, the backup singers crying out "Gallactica" until listeners of "taste" want to throttle them. What they are missing, of course, is that the tongues of the band are firmly planted in their cheeks. But the song is at least partially redeemed by Bob Millitello's very nice flute solo (Millitello was Maynard's flute guy in the late 70s, recalling his earlier work in the 60s with the great Joe Farrell). Again the fade out works its annoying magic.

The first side of the original album ended with a Slide Hampton arrangement of Ned Washington's "Stella By Starlight," which originally featured Hampton's incredibly skilled trombone. Here, Hampton is succeeded by the capable Phil Grey. Grey is no Hampton, but he does rock when the ballad abruptly changes gears with a brief and very fast mambo introduction into open swing. Mike Migliore picks up the tempo at the end with a lightning bebop style alto solo that would make Charlie Parker proud and leads directly into Maynard's stratospheric reiteration of the head which leads to a deliberately non-romantic ending which again defeats traditional expectations of how a ballad should be wrapped up (one thinks here of something like Charlie Parker's mischievous "Country Gardens" style ending of the beautiful ballad "Lover Man" which seems to wink at the listener, reminding us of how easily a musical form can shift our mood).

Side B opens with "Birdland," to this listener's ear the most exuberant of the tunes on the album. If you can listen to it without wanting to dance and join the band's claps, you have no soul. If I had a theme song, this would be it (it was on my MySpace page for the longest time and, come to think of it, still is). My one complaint is, again, the lazy fade-out.

The rendition of "Baker Street" is, I think, the most incongruous arrangement on the album. It sounds like arranger Biff Hannon (who also plays the electric pianos and synthesizers on the album) didn't quite know how to handle the (then) fairly recent Gerry Rafferty hit. Mike Migliore does a nice job with the alto solo that was originally created by Raphael Ravenscroft and which led to the celebrated Baker Street phenomenon in saxophone sales in the late 70s.

When the album first came out, I hated "How Ya Doin' Baby." It's a straight out funk number that didn't seem to fit with the rest of the pieces. Listening to it again, I'm more indulgent. What strikes me this time is the tightness of the band and the cleanness of the attacks, especially of the reeds. I'm still not sold on the piece, but it's not a monstrosity.

Alas, the closing number, "Over the Rainbow" sounds like it could have been written twenty minutes before the recording session. It features Maynard's trumpet on the melody with an attempt to use the band and strings to build excitement. I say an attempt, because every time the music seems to build, the tension strangely drops out. The strings behind Millitello's excellent flute solo make it sound more restrained than it is, and even the return of the band at the end of the solo does not allow Millitello's characteristic build to lead to the expected shout chorus. The very end, which features Maynard's high screams with little other backing than the Fender Rhodes (which Hannon voices with annoyingly close triads) makes even the trumpet sound weak. And again--the fadeout.

That's the low-down for the whole album. As an album, it stands up to anything else Maynard was producing in this period and, as I said, the feeling throughout is experimentation and joy and good humor.

This album is absolutely worth listening to. What you hear, I think, is what you bring to it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 20, 2010 7:15 AM PDT

Best of
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Orchestra Hurt By Bad Transfer!, July 19, 2010
This review is from: Best of (Audio CD)
The title of this CD, "The Best of Tommy Dorsey," is not inaccurate. It collects a number of the band's biggest hits from its beginnings in the mid-1930s through its heyday in the early to mid-1940s. But the selection could have been more extensive. As one reviewer noted, where's "The Music Goes Round and Round," the very first of the Clambake Seven recordings? "Well, Git It" doesn't appear on the CD. My point is not to go on adding recordings which I would have liked to see included myself, but to ask the question of why this CD only has 15 tracks.

You can't blame the cost of remastering. As at least two reviewers have noted, the transfer is terrible, with that ridiculous "echo chamber" sound that you used to get when remastering was in its infancy. I don't pretend to be anything like an expert, or even a well-informed novice, in the art of digital remastering. But I will say that many of the tunes which were available on vinyl in the 1970s sound better on the vinyl than they do on the CD. I can only imagine what some of them must have sounded like on 78s.

My point here--if you have access to vinyl, then go ahead and copy your vinyl onto your own CDs so you can have a convenient "play copy." I can't imagine that your CD would sound too inferior. It may, in fact, sound better.

As for the rest of the package--the liner notes sound like they've just been thrown together. There is no attempt to situate or describe the band in its historical context or significance. Little is made of Dorsey's trombone playing, beyond its technical merits, when in fact it was the sound of his horn that was the mainstay of the band. Bud Freeman, one of Dorsey's one-time tenor players is quoted for his resistance to agreeing to Dorsey's "greatness" as a player. The snide criticism, which is repeated absurdly by one of the other reviewers who high-handedly allows that Dorsey's trombone playing was "not half bad," has circulated enough in the post-bebop era (where it is recycled in some of the equally absurd contempt with which some musicians hold a trombonist like Bill Watrous) that I feel that I ought to address it.

Without a doubt Dorsey's style will appear old-fashioned to many contemporary ears, not simply because of his smoothness and vibrato but because of his insistence on strict adherence to classic melodic and rhythmic structure which was being eroded in the 1940s by musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. It would fall to Jay Jay Johnson, and not Dorsey, to reinvent the trombone as a bebop instrument. But that's not a reason to dismiss Dorsey's mastery of the instrument.

So, with all due respect to the late Bud Freeman and the reviewer below, I think I will go with the assessment of another, in my opinion, more significant reed player in assessing Dorsey's merits as a trombonist. Charlie Parker himself is said to have been enthusiastically watching, on the day of his death, a telecast of Dorsey playing. Parker is supposed to have remarked, "He's such a wonderful trombonist."

I think I'll rest my case on Dorsey's talent by saying my own musical taste is much more in line with Parker's than Freeman's, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, this recording does not do justice to that talent. My suggestion to those who are looking to discover Dorsey is this--look on vinyl.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2012 11:44 AM PDT

The Complete Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, 1928-1935
The Complete Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, 1928-1935
6 used & new from $0.01

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Title Shows the Ignorance of the Compilers, July 18, 2010
I haven't listened to this album, and not surprisingly there are no samples available to listen to, no list of tunes, no descriptions. There's a question I'm just dying to ask.

What do you put on the CD entitled "The Complete Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra 1928-1935" when Tommy didn't even have his own orchestra until 1935?

Anyone who buys this, please contact me. I've got some very nice beachfront property I'd like to sell you--in Kansas!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 3, 2012 10:15 AM PDT

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