Think you know jazz and Tin Pan Alley? Without the help of Google (no cheating!), jot down who you think first recorded each of the following jazz standards. Remember, not who wrote the songs but the artists who first recorded them:
- I Got Rhythm
- Sweet Georgia Brown
- St. Louis Blues
- In the Mood
- Sing Sing Sing
- Harlem Nocturne
- I'm in the Mood for Love
- Goody Goody
- So Rare
Thanks to the Originals Project, a terrific site created and hosted by Dick Rosemont [pictured], here are 10 songs that became jazz standards and the artists who first recorded them. Unfortunately, Dick's site doesn't yet feature audio or video clips of these initial waxings. So I've provided links where possible so you can hear them:
1. I Got Rhythm—Red Nichols & His Five Pennies with Dick
Robertson (1930). Talk about an incubator of the big band era, playing on this track were Red Nichols, Ruby Weinstein and Charlie Teagarden (trumpets), Jack Teagarden Glenn Miller and Georgie Stoll (trombone), Benny Goodman (clarinet), Sid Stoneburn (alto sax), Larry Binyon (tenor sax), Ed Bergman and Wladimir "Ed" Selinsky (violins), Teg Brown (banjo), Jack Russin (piano), Art Miller (bass), Gene Krupa (drums) and Dick Robertson (vocal). You'll find this one at iTunes on Red Nichols & His Five Pennies 1926-1930. Or listen for free here (scroll down to the song title and click on the link).
2. Sweet Georgia Brown—Ben Bernie (1925). This was recorded with Bernie's Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra. Bernie was a jazz violinist and co-wrote this standard with Ken Casey, Maceo Pinkard. Here's a video clip of Ben Bernie actually playing it:
3. St. Louis Blues—Prince's Band (1915). This first recording seems to be a tango, march and cakewalk collage. Prince here isn't the guy with no name, an open shirt and Little Richard's hairstyle. Charles A. Prince led Columbia Records' house band at the time. In the early days of recording, a house band made more sense than trawling for talent able to record perfectly the first time. Listen for free here (scroll down to the song title and click on the link).
4. In the Mood—Edgar Hayes & His Orchestra (1938). Edgar Hayes was a pianist and bandleader in the 1920s and 1930s. Here's his band (dig who's keeping time): Leonard Davis, Bernard Flood and Henry Goodwin (trumpets), Bob Horton, Clyde Bernhardt and David "Jelly" James (trombones), Rudy Powell (alto sax, clarinet), Roger Boyd (alto sax), William Mitchner (tenor sax), Joe Garland (baritone sax), Edgar Hayes (piano), Eddie Gibbs (guitar), Frank "Coco" Darling (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums). Nice arrangement! Interestingly, this version is a lot jumpier than Glenn Miller's reading. Here's a clip:
5. Sing Sing Sing—Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang (1936). On this recording, trumpeter and vocalist Prima assembled Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Joe Catalyne (tenor sax), Frank Pinero (piano), Garry McAdams (guitar), Jack Ryan (bass) and George Pemberty (drums). Prima wrote Sing, Sing, Sing, and you can sample a downloadable clip here.
6. Harlem Nocturne—Ray Noble (1940). In addition to writing and first recording Cherokee, British bandleader and composer Ray Noble also was the first to record this classic by Earle Hagen, who died in May. To hear the original Cherokee, you'll find it at iTunes on the album Swing Time: The Fabulous Big Band Era 1925-1955. Noble's Harlem Nocturne can be found at iTunes on Mood Indigo: Sweet and Mellow Jazz.
7. I'm in the Mood for Love—Little Jack Little and His Orchestra (1935). Orchestra leader, singer and piano whiz Jack Little was the first to record this Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields song written for the movie Every Night at Eight. Little's band at the time modeled itself after Hal Kemp's, complete with Little's breathy Skinnay Ennis vocal style. Here's a clip of the original song:
8. Goody Goody—Benny Goodman (1936). This recording is most often associated with Ella Fitzgerald but it was first recorded by vocalist Helen Ward. You'll find the track at iTunes on Benny Goodman: Sing, Sing, Sing.
9. Perfidia—Lupita Palomera (1937). This was originally recorded by Mexican singer Palomera with the San Cristobal Marimba Band. I couldn't find an audio or video clip, but did locate a sample of Palomera singing the song in the 1950s here.
10. So Rare—Gus Arnheim and His Coconut Grove Orchestra (1937). With Jimmy Farrell on vocal, Arnheim's recording climbed to No. 2 on the charts in 1937. Twenty years later, Jimmy Dorsey would have a smash hit with So Rare by giving it a honky-tonk feel and adding a vocal choir. It too climbed to No. 2 on the charts, and Dorsey died shortly after its success. The only artist to have a No. 1 hit with So Rare? Guy Lombardo in 1937 (it's at iTunes). You can sample and download Arnheim's recording from Dance with the Sweet Bands here. And while you're at it, compare Arnheim's to Dorsey's version: