Harry, in the case of this post's title, is Harry Arnold. Drawing a blank? Arnold was among the finest big-band arrangers and tenor saxophonists in Sweden during the 1950s and '60s. From 1956 to 1965, Arnold led the Swedish Radio Studio Orchestra that featured many of the country's leading Swedish jazz musicians. They recorded quite a few albums, including their first, This Is Harry and the Mystery Band. It's easily one of the finest big band recordings of 1957.
Arnold began recording in Sweden in 1945, and his major arranging influences during the 1950s were Benny Carter, Sy Oliver and Quincy Jones, who collaborated with Arnold on several recordings in Sweden in 1958 during his multi-year stay abroad in Paris. In 1957, before teaming with Jones, Arnold recorded Mystery Band, his radio orchestra's first album. If I were to give you a blindfold test, you'd never guess the arranger or the band. But you'd be blown away.
In fact, getting experts to guess the band is exactly what Down Beat did when the album came out in the fall of '58. American critics and arrangers were asked who's playing. None of them guessed right, including Ernie Wilkins, Elliot Lawrence, Sy Oliver and radio announcer Willis Conover. All picked leading American bands and arrangers. When the album was released in the States, critics raved and Conover devoted an hour-long show to him.
Recorded in February 1957, the band included Sixten Eriksson, Weine Renliden, Bengt-Arne Wallin (tp); Arnold Johansson (tp,v-tb); Ake Persson, Andreas Skjold, George Vernon, Goran Ohlsson (tb); Arne Domnerus, Rolf Lindell (as); Carl-Henrik Norin, Bjarne Nerem (ts); Lennart Jansson (bar); Bengt Hallberg (p); Bengt Hogberg (g); Simon Brehm (b) and Egil Johansen (d).
The music is deceptively great. Sweden had and still has its fair share of superb jazz artists, but no Swedish band ever could swing as American as this one when it came to a bright, slam-bang sound. Harry Arnold died in 1971 at age 50.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find the swinging This Is Harry and the Mystery Band combined with tracks from assorted Arnold dates and sessions led by Quincy Jones in '58 here.
In some ways, Arnold's orchestra was Quincy Jones's garage band, a test lab before he formed his own famous Birth of a Band orchestra in the States in 1959.
The pre-Jones tracks include Stand By, Blue Lou, Crazy Rhythm, Stand By, Six-ten, I've Found a New Baby, Jersey Bounce, Laura, Dedicated to George, Indian Summer and Annie Laurie.
JazzWax clips: Here's Arnold's Stand By...
Here's Cuban Trombones...
And here's Crazy Rhythm...
A special thanks for David Langner.