It's Time To Jump & Shout
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Born St. Petersburg, Russia, September 4, 1913... Son of a percussionist in Czar Nicholas II's Imperial Regimental Band.
At eighteen months, was brought to the United States. At seven years, began study of the violin... Acclaimed as a child prodigy. At eleven, awarded three scholarships at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute. At fourteen, became youngest violinist in the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. At eighteen, formed the Savitt String Quartet. At nineteen, was Concert Master under Leopold Stokowski.
At twenty-one, steering a completely different musical tack, Savitt accepted a CBS appointment as Music Director at their Philadelphia affiliate, WCAU. In 1937, he moved to the rival KYW, formed a studio dance orchestra known as the Top Hatters which broadcast nightly in Philadelphia. A fifteen minute segment was regularly aired along an East Coast network. (A personal 1938 memory: 6:15 P.M. in Boston... WEEI 590 Kilocycles. The Announcer: "The Top Hatters' Theme!"... The Top Hatters: Quaker City Jazz.)
The band was, literally, besieged with offers from ballrooms, hotels and restaurants... and, late in 1938, Jan Savitt's swing band made its New York debut to enthusiastic dancers and reviews, later reigning as a popular favorite at the Blue Room in the Hotel Lincoln.
Savitt's musical standards were, understandably, high and his ensembles brass, reed and rhythm played not only with cohesion and precision, but also with noticeable energy and elation.
In 1939-40, only a few bands could match the power and excitement of Savitt's six-man brass team. Trumpeter JOHNNY AUSTIN (Augustino), while not matching the creative technique of Harry James nor the tornadic power of Ziggy Elman, nevertheless, belongs in their dynamic company. Savitt had been impressed with his previous work in the early Glenn Miller band.
AL LEOPOLD on trombone could play it many ways: the smoothly-suave but swinging style he demonstrates in his opening solo on ROSE OF THE RIO GRANDE... or, on the other hand, there is his eight-bar cameo solo on TURKEY IN THE STRAW displaying a gut bucket demeanor worthy of Roy Palmer and the sixteen-bar solo on MY HEART AT THY SWEET VOICE is a wide-ranging flight that would have delighted Miff Mole.
CUTTY CUTSHALL was with the Savitt band nearly two years and some of his tasteful pre-Goodman and pre-Condon trombone work is heard on GET HAPPY, TUXEDO JUNCTION, BLUES IN THE GROOVE and IT'S TIME TO JUMP AND SHOUT.
Crowned by the alto saxophone of GABE GALINAS, a little-known but superb lead man, Savitt's sax section always had a full, rich sound. Late in 1939, Savitt added GEORGE SIRAVO on baritone sax playing the harmonic root, creating a deeper, richer timbre.
GEORGE AULD was in the Savitt band for a short three-month period (April-July 1939) and his earthy tenor saxophone is heard on two sides: TUXEDO JUNCTION (67540-1) and W.P.A.
The unheralded but excellent ED CLAUSEN, presumably, plays most of the tenor sax solos but SAM SACHELLE and TED DUANE may have contributed on the 1941 dates.
Further frustrating the discographer is the fact that, on occasion, GABE GALINAS alternated between alto and tenor... as did ED CLAUSEN.
Pianist JACK PLEIS and drummer RUSS ISAACS were solid pluses in a rhythm section, the excellence of which was overshadowed by its famous (or by some infamous) Savitt Shuffle. The shuffle conveys a double-time or 8/4 rhythm and is, actually, played only by the piano the guitar, bass and drums working their usual rhythm roles.
The shuffle beat annoyed some critics and fans perhaps, because it was also employed by the sweet band (read schmaltz) led by Henry Busse. In time, however, this rhythm tool was used by Lionel Hampton and Louis Prima and by R&B and jump bands led by Fats Domino and Louis Jordan.
Prominent music composer and scholar, Gunther Schuller, in his indispensable tome, THE SWING ERA 1930-1945 (Oxford 1989), perceptively noted:
Savitt's band played with such consistently impeccable ensemble and propulsive swing that it kept even its famous shuffle rhythm, constantly energized rhythmically, from becoming a stale clich. Indeed, the Savitt band had achieved by early 1939 a 4/4 swing amalgam that was an interesting cross between Lunceford and Basie, the shuffle rhythm simply folded into it.
The innovative JOHNNY WATSON was the band's major arranger with SAVITT contributing an occasional chart. Savitt also commissioned such talented free lancers as EDDIE DURHAM of Basie and Lunceford fame and BILLY MOORE, both of whom added some exciting charts to the 1940 and 1941 book. While the discographies do not identify their works, TED DUANE, BEN PICKERING, JACK PLEIS and GEORGE SIRAVO also contributed arrangements.
GEORGE "BON BON" TUNNELL... No other band singer, with, perhaps, the exception of Ella Fitzgerald, was as excitingly rhythmic and creative at scat-singing and as musically mellow and clear-voiced on a ballad. Bon Bon was unique... and not just because he was the first full-time black singer in a white band.
As a band vocalist, CARLOTTA DALE (not heard here) belongs in a rarified class with Mildred Bailey, Teddy Grace and Kay Starr for her attractive tonal qualities and impressive delivery. She and Bon Bon were, arguably, the best band vocal team of the swing era.
By all reports, Jan Savitt was an engaging, cheerful individual who thoroughly enjoyed his work and role in popular music and never appeared to regret his musical-about-face career decision in 1934. With the passing of the swing band era, he might have returned to classical music or turned to composing movie scores which he had tried, in part, on the Jane Russell film, THE OUTLAW. But, sadly, Savitt was never to make that choice for he suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage while driving to an engagement in Sacramento. Jan Savitt died on October 4, 1948 at the age of 35 years.
These recordings are an important part of Jan Savitt's musical legacy. It's a memorable one.... It's an enjoyable one.
||Quaker City Jazz
720 In The Books
I'll Always Be In Love With You
Alla En El Rancho Grande
The Last Two Weeks In July
Vol Vistu Gaily Star
The Paper Picker
It's A Wonderful World
Rose Of The Rio Grande
Blues In The Groove
It's Time To Jump And Shout
Turkey In The Straw
Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers
Green Goon Jive
My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice
Jolly Peter (Bummel Petrous)
That's A Plenty
That's A Plenty
Overall Rating (based on 1 reviews):
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The Savitt Shuffle Rhythm is truly catching and unlike some of the other CD's under his name the tune line-up on this CD provides the best presentation of the "Instrumental" capabilities of the band.
A Great Issue.
||VMP - Vintage Music Productions
George Bon Bon Tunnell