“This book is a biography of Bunny Berigan, but is it also the story of the swing era of American musical history, a time when, truly, musical giants strode the earth. Mr. Trumpet—The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumph of Bunny Berigan, by Michael P. Zirpolo, was published by Scarecrow Press on October 1, 2011. I recommend it most enthusiastically. This is an essential work for swing aficionados. It is impeccably researched, and well written; indeed it is one of the best biographies of a jazz musician that I've ever encountered, and I've read more than a few.
As a superb supplement, many previously unseen images are included in the photospread. In addition to shots of Bunny and his family members, one can view many of his talented sidemen including Buddy Rich, Georgie Auld, George Wettling, Dave Tough, Ray Conniff, Joe Lippmann (an outstanding arranger), Joe Bushkin, Don Lodice, Johnny Blowers, and Jack Sperling, among many others. And there are also photos of Bunny's colleagues and fellow legends—Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, and the sultry chanteuse Lee Wiley (read the book).
Although Mr. Trumpet will undoubtedly be used as a reference book, it is also highly entertaining. There are many anecdotes from the golden age of swing in it, all masterfully told. It is insightful, truly revealing, occasionally of devastating depth. It is a uniquely American story; a tragedy that, ultimately, miraculously, is inspirational.”
Richard Claar, broadcaster and swing era historian, is a co-moderator of the world’s largest big band online discussion group under the auspices of the University of Colorado American Music Research Center Glenn Miller Archive. (For the full review written by Richard Claar, see below under "Reviews.")
A biography of the jazz trumpeter Roland Bernard “Bunny” Berigan (1908-1942), by Michael P. Zirpolo, was published on October 1, 2011, by Scarecrow Press as a part of its “Studies in Jazz” series, in conjunction with the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University. Its title is: Mr. Trumpet…The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumph of Bunny Berigan.
The story of Berigan's life resembles an ancient Greek tragedy: a heroic figure rises from obscurity to dizzying heights, touches greatness, becomes ensnared by circumstances, some beyond his control, others of his own making, and comes to a disastrous early end. Berigan was very much a man of his time and place, and was intimately involved in the commercial music/dance band/show business milieu of the 1930s and '40s in New York City and the eastern United States, where he worked. The story of his life necessarily includes an examination of the part of jazz history that is now known as the “Swing Era.” Berigan was a charismatic performer, one of the relatively few musicians in the history of jazz to advance the art. His trumpet artistry made a deep and lasting impression on almost everyone who heard him play. The body of recorded work he left continues to evoke a wide range of emotions in those who hear it.
This biography is an analysis of the life of Bunny Berigan that sets his story in the fullest possible context, and explains many heretofore misunderstood events in both Berigan's life, and in the Swing Era. The structure of the book is strictly chronological. That allows for an organic development of the exposition of the events of Berigan's life that can be easily followed and understood by a reader, even one with little or no knowledge of the music and musicians of the Swing Era. There are numerous explanations of Berigan's music in the book which are as non-technical as possible so they can be understood by the lay reader. Also included are appendices containing lists of all known broadcast/transcription recordings made by Bunny Berigan during the years he led his own bands (1936-1942). Many of these recordings have never been released commercially. There is also an appendix devoted to an explanation of Berigan's soundtrack recordings for the film Syncopation (1942). The book contains many photos that have never been published previously.
Those having questions about this book can contact the author at: email@example.com
Mr. Trumpet-the Trials, Tribulations and Triumph of Bunny Berigan has 550 pages, including a 24 page photospread which contains many previously unpublished images. The text is supported by hundreds of footnotes and references. Mr. Trumpet can be purchased at Amazon.com, or from numerous other online booksellers worldwide. To access the Amazon listing for Mr. Trumpet, go to Amazon.com Bunny Berigan Mr. Trumpet, or click on the "order now" box at the upper right.
Michael P. Zirpolo is a practicing lawyer in Canton, Ohio. He has written numerous articles and given many lectures in the last fifteen years on jazz musicians from the swing era, including Duke Ellington (and his sidemen Sonny Greer and Russell Procope), Artie Shaw, Roy Eldridge, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Bunny Berigan. He has written criticisms of reissues of classic jazz recordings and of books about the music and musicians of the swing era. He has also written about the development of swing and the contributions to that development made by Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke. He is a longtime collector of jazz recordings from the 1920s to the 1980s, and has developed considerable skill in the art of digitally remastering vintage recordings. He is frequently consulted by writers and collectors of vintage jazz recordings from around the globe with questions about the music, recordings, and musicians of the swing era, and has appeared on radio and television discussing classic jazz. In addition to jazz and American popular song, he is a devotee of long form music. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For information about the Bunny Berigan photo search project, and about the "lost" recordings of Bunny Berigan, please go to the "contact" page.
"...About the trumpet players I admire...first, I'll name my boy Bunny Berigan. Now there's a boy I've always admired for his tone, soul, technique, his sense of phrasing and all. To me, Bunny can't do no wrong in music."
As people begin to buy and read the book, their interest in and curiosity about Bunny Berigan is increasing. I have had a number of requests from folks all around the U.S. and in Toronto in Canada that I make presentations about Berigan, and do book signings. At this point, my plans for specific events are gradually taking shape. As these events are scheduled, I will post all relevant information on this website.
--On December 19 at noon, I appeared on WCPN-90.3 FM in Cleveland, as a guest on the Around Noon program. WCPN's jazz guru and longtime host for jazz programming, Dan Polletta, interviewed me about "Mr. Trumpet." Around Noon is WCPN's radio magazine, and it is streamed live via the Internet. To hear the 20 minute interview, click on the triangle at right.
--On Wednesday March 7 at 7:00 p.m., I made a presentation about Bunny Berigan at the Canton Museum of Art in my home town of Canton, Ohio. It included a narrated slide show featuring photos of Bunny, his family, his bands, and many of the now legendary musicians and singers with whom he worked including Paul Whiteman, Bix Beiderbecke, Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford and Buddy Rich. I also played choice selections from the Berigan songbook, and signed books. There was a reception after the presentation. The event was very successful with over 40 people in attendance. I was very happy to see many old friends, and meet a few new ones.
--From May 16 to 20, 2012, I was at the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee in his home town of Fox Lake, Wisconsin and environs. That event featured many activities including musical performances by a number of very fine bands. I presented several slide show/lectures on Bunny's life, and presented a number of demonstrations of his recorded music, with discussion and question and answer sessions. These included Berigan's best known recordings, the "rarest of the rare" of Bunny's recordings, and a presentation on the evolution of Bunny's performances of "I Can't Get Started". Two interviews on local radio also took place. The Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee was a great event for Berigan aficionados to enjoy camaraderie, learn about Bunny, and enjoy a lot of good music. Over 400 people attended.
The answers to the questions below can be found by clicking on "order now" on the bar below (not the box at the top of this page). Don't worry, by doing this you will NOT be automatically ordering the book. You can order the book however, by clicking on the "order now" box at the upper right corner of this page.
1) Bunny Berigan and his small band from the Famous Door, a club on New York's 52nd Street, were hired to play a wedding on March 15, 1936. It was quite a bash, and included among its guests, George Gershwin. Whose wedding was this?
2) Berigan's big band was among the first to record music from a revolutionary film. They did so on January 26, 1938. What was the name of the film?
3) Berigan worked in a short-lived musical show in late 1936 called "The Show is On." In the show, which was intended to present the first jazz band in a Broadway show, Bunny was to be silhouetted on a large screen playing the trumpet. For technical reasons, the show's director couldn't get the effect to work properly, so it was cut from the show. This director later went on to great success in Hollywood films. Who was he?
4) Berigan was a peerless studio musician in the early and mid-1930s. He was valued by conductors, musicians, and singers because he could fit into any musical situation, and add a great deal to any performance with his dynamic trumpet playing. He was on hand for the inaugural recording sessions for two icons of American music. Who were they?
5) Bunny Berigan's bands always were stocked with very talented musicians. One of his sidemen went on to great success in the music business. With his own musical groups, he recorded over ninety albums, won a Grammy, two Golden Globe awards, and had two platinum albums and at least ten gold albums. Who was he?
6) After being swamped by debt in 1939, Berigan was forced to dissolve his band. His friend, Tommy Dorsey, offered him a job, and he joined the Dorsey band in early March, 1940. Only a few weeks earlier, Dorsey had hired a new boy singer who was then virtually unknown, but who had boundless ambition, and talent. Who was this singer?
7) At CBS in the early and mid-1930s, Berigan worked with many talented people, including a young composer/arranger who was often used by the prodigious actor-director Orson Welles on his wildly unconventional CBS radio series The Mercury Theater of the Air. When Welles went to Hollywood in 1940, he took this gifted musician with him to compose the music for Citizen Kane. Later, this composer formed a creative partnership with film director Alfred Hitchcock, writing the music for the films Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds. Who was this composer?
8) Bunny very often worked with a drummer at CBS who became a personal friend. This drummer gained public recognition working with the pianist/composer Raymond Scott's Quintette. The drummer's son has been a very successful composer of film music in Hollywood for many decades, as a creative partner with film director Steven Spielberg. Who was the drummer/father, and who is the composer/son?
9) Bunny Berigan's name was often mentioned is a comic strip which debuted in 1987. What was the name of this comic strip?
10) Berigan backed a legendary female blues singer at a jam session held at the Famous Door on February 16, 1936. Who was this singer?
More questions will be added.
Mr. Trumpet by Michael P. Zirpolo
FLASH!...I have found at least 25 previously unissued aircheck and other recordings made by Bunny Berigan in the years 1936-1939 in the Berigan archive at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I have also found approximately a dozen other aircheck and other recordings in this cache that were issued many years ago on the Shoestring label with absolutely no remastering or clean-up done on them. These recordings were made by either the Harry Smith Recordings studio, by Brunswick Records, or as a part of the "Modern Rhythm Choruses" demonstration recordings made by Berigan in March of 1939. ( All of these recordings were part of Berigan's private record collection, which included many commercial recordings by other bands, and orchestras, including many "classical" recordings. It appears that Bunny had very broad taste in music. Most of the commercial records in his collection still had stickers on them from a record store on Broadway near 52nd Street where he bought them.)
The technicians at the University of Wisconsin are currently digitizing these previously unissued or once issued Berigan recordings. When they are done, they will send me the digital copies so I can positively identify and date the performances. I will also listen to these digital copies for quality of sound. Visually, the acetate disks on which these recordings were made appeared to be in very good condition. However, until I have heard the dubs, I will not be able to comment on how these recordings sound.
Although there will undoubtedly be copyright issues to be dealt with before these recordings can be issued, I will do everything in my power to see that these recordings are cleaned-up, remastered, and issued with appropriate liner notes. These recordings are the property of the University of Wisconsin, and I will work with the University to see that all revenue generated from their sale will go into a restricted fund at UW-Madison to pay the costs to have the various materials in the Berigan archive curated. At least that is my hope.
I will keep you posted on all developments.
FLASH #2!...The digital copies of the University of Wisconsin Bunny Berigan recordings arrived a couple of days ago. There were three full CDs, each containing about 15 tracks. I listened to all of them in one sitting, and am absolutely delighted with almost all of these either previously unreleased or once released recordings. The sound on most of them is extremely good. Many tracks have sensational sound. The playing of the Berigan band on those from mid-1937 is very good; the band's playing about a year later is excellent, and the live tracks from the fall of 1938, with Buddy Rich on drums, are extremely exciting. These will be the ONLY live recordings of the Berigan band with Buddy Rich, if we can get them cleaned-up and issued. Bunny's playing on these recordings ranges from good to magnificent.
I am in the process of organizing these recordings, providing each with either an absolutely accurate date/location or an approximate date/location, and will then add as much relevant info about each track as is necessary to put it into its proper context. I hope to begin posting on this website all info about these recordings as soon as I am able. I will undoubtedly be doing this in stages because of the number of recordings involved, so you will have something like a developing saga to follow here.
I can now say without any hesitation that the number of previously unissued Berigan recordings in this cache is at least 25, making it the largest find to-date of such recordings. This is a major development for Berigan fans!
More to follow...
THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN BUNNY BERIGAN FILMS and RECORDINGS
On May 14 and 15, 2012, I was at the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison doing research regarding films and recordings where Bunny Berigan appears. I was vaguely aware of what films were there, but had no idea of what recordings were there. What I found will be of great interest to Berigan aficionados. Here is a summary of what I found.
I was able to view a 16 millimeter film, which I had previously thought contained a home movie of Bunny and his band that had been taken by arranger Andy Phillips while the Berigan band was appearing at Kennywood Park, just outside of Pittsburgh, in May of 1939. A part of that film strip, about a minute and a half or two minutes long, did in fact contain scenes of Bunny and his father, Cap Berigan, walking and posing at Kennywood. It also contained scenes of a bandstand, presumably the one at Kennywood, and of the Berigan band, including vocalists Danny Richards and Wendy Bishop, in action. Bunny directed the band quite enthusiastically, and moved around in front of it quite a lot while doing so. I say “presumably at Kennywood” because the next stop on the Berigan itinerary then was in Detroit, at Eastwood Gardens, and the bandstand scenes could have been shot there as well. However, I am going to suggest that it is more likely that all scenes of Bunny and his band on this film strip were taken at Kennywood.
The other part of this film strip contains a copy of the 1936 film short where Berigan appeared with Fred Rich’s band, including many of Bunny’s colleagues from CBS. This film short is widely available, and parts of it have been posted on You Tube.
Records at the Library indicate that the Kennywood footage was spliced together with the Fred Rich film short material sometime in the 1960s. The original Kennywood film likely remained in the possession of Andy Phillips, and is now presumably in the hands of his heirs. Many still photos have been extracted from that film strip over the years, some of which now appear in “Mr. Trumpet.”
The cache of recordings I discovered can best be organized by year. There are recordings from 1937, 1938, and 1939.
Date Place Title and other information
1-May 1, 1937 Madhattan Room, “You Can’t Run Away from Love Tonight ” ---vocal Carol McKay
2-May 1, 1937 Hotel Pennsylvania “The You and Me that Used to Be” ---vocal Ford Leary
3-May 5, 1937 New York City “Swanee River”
4-May 5, 1937 “Big John Special”
5-May 8, 1937 “Summer Night” ---vocal Carol McKay
6-May 8, 1937 “You Showed Me the Way” ---vocal Carol McKay
7-May 8, 1937 “Mahogany Hall Stomp”
8-May 8, 1937 "King Porter Stomp"
9-May 12, 1937 “They All Laughed” ---vocal Carol McKay
10-May 13, 1937 “Mr. Ghost Goes to Town”
11-May 13, 1937 “Royal Garden Blues”
12-May 29, 1937 CBS Saturday Night “You Can’t Run Away from Love Tonight” ---spoken introduction
Swing Club, NYC by Bunny Berigan
13-June 12, 1937 Roof Garden, “Rose Room”
14-June 12, 1937 Hotel Pennsylvania “Peckin’”
1-March 27, 1938 Paradise Restaurant, “How’d Ya Like to Love Me?” ---vocal Gail Reese
2-March 27, 1938 New York City “Downstream” ---vocal Gail Reese
3-March 27, 1938 “Sweet as a Song” ---vocal Gail Reese
4-March 27, 1938 "Let 'Er Go" (short version)
5-April 1, 1938 Paul Whiteman in “Dark Eyes”
Concert WABC-NYC Berigan appeared as a guest soloist on this Whiteman broadcast,
7-April 3, 1938 New York City “Royal Garden Blues”
"Royal Garden Blues" is a scintillating performance which contains a superbly constructed jazz solo by Berigan, excellent solos by Georgie Auld on tenor sax and Sonny Lee on trombone, terrific drumming by Johnny Blowers, and much swing from the entire band. Bunny’s solo is additional evidence that at this time, he could play jazz as well as anybody then on the scene.
8-April 3, 1938 “Have You Ever Been in Heaven?” ---vocal Gail Reese
9-April 3, 1938 “Peg O ’My Heart”
10-April 8, 1938 “Am I Blue?”
11-April 8, 1938 “Let ‘Er Go” (long version)
"Let 'Er Go," a pop tune, which was recorded by the Berigan band in 1937 with a vocal, is played instrumentally, and romps all the way with extended solos by Berigan, Auld, Joe Dixon on clarinet, and Sonny Lee on trombone. Once again, the drumming of Johnny Blowers is excellent.
12-April 8, 1938 “Trees”
This was one of the most played numbers in the Berigan book from the time it was recorded in December of 1937 until Bunny died in 1942. The fidelity on this recording (and almost all of the others from the Paradise Restaurant) is superb and Bunny and the band perform splendidly
13-May 26, 1938 NBC Magic Key of Radio “Somewhere with Somebody Else” ---vocal Dick Wharton
14-September 24, 1938 CBS Saturday Night Swing “Dark Eyes”
Club Bunny appeared as a guest soloist accompanied by the CBS band.
This recording, (there are two diffferent takes, both of which sound like they were recorded in a studio as opposed to some remote location) and the ones noted below (*), reveal the change in orientation the Berigan band underwent in the summer and early fall of 1938 as a result of Bunny’s admiration of the style of Count Basie’s band. He began to work with the young arranger/trombonist Ray Conniff, who was then a member of the Berigan band, to create a series of arrangements on jazz tunes and originals that highlighted all of the jazz assets of the Berigan band. Consequently, these recordings present what was one of the best swing bands of the day in very congenial jazz settings. The rocking drumming of Buddy Rich and the waves of rhythmic riffs created by Conniff’s charts provide a splendidly swinging foundation for the jazz solos of Berigan on trumpet, Georgie Auld, then in his early Herschel Evans phase, on tenor sax, Gus Bivona on clarinet, and Ray Conniff himself on trombone. When playing these arrangements, the Berigan band of late 1938 was in the vanguard of swing.
17-October 12, 1938 (?) New York City “Moten Swing”*
In “Mr. Trumpet,” I stated that this recording was made in the spring of 1938. That assertion was based on research I did (including a statement in the White materials), about this aircheck. At the time, I had not yet heard this recording. Based on newly discovered aural evidence, I am now certain that this aircheck was recorded during the time Georgie Auld, Buddy Rich and Gus Bivona were all members of the Berigan band, which would have been between September 12, 1938, when Bivona joined, and December 15, 1938, when Auld left. The playing of all three of these soloists is plainly discernible in this performance, as is the trombone solo of Ray Conniff. I am not certain however, that this recording was made while the Berigan band was playing at Roseland Ballroom in New York City in the fall of 1938, though it could have been.
18-October 12, 1938 “Gangbuster’s Holiday”*
NOTE: These four recordings are the only ones I have heard (to-date) where drummer Buddy Rich performed on live recordings with the Berigan band. To say that he was playing wonderfully and driving the Berigan band would be an understatement.
19-November 19, 1938 CBS Saturday Night Swing “I Can’t Get Started” (no vocal)
Club Bunny performed this with the CBS house band.
There may be a couple of more recordings in this cache from 1938. I do believe that the private recordings referred to on page 275 of “Mr. Trumpet,” Bunny made with Joe Bushkin and Bud Freeman in September or October of 1938, are among them. However, I will have to do some very close listening before I am able to provide any worthwhile information about them.
There are nineteen more recordings in this group. Unlike the recordings from 1937 and 1938, which are almost universally in excellent sound (almost all of them were professionally recorded by the Harry Smith Recording Studio), these sides are on Presto acetate disks, and have apparently been played often. Consequently, there is a good bit of surface noise and some skips on many of them. For these recordings to be issued, they will have to be worked on by an audio specialist. (See below for further information on these recordings.)
Nevertheless, there is much good Berigan playing on these sides, often in short performances with a pianist who sounds like Joe Bushkin, and a drummer, who sounds like George Wettling. This trio format often suggests the sound the Benny Goodman Trio recordings. Also, there is one performance, where Lee Wiley sings “You Leave Me Breathless,” accompanied only by Bushkin, that is exquisite, among a number of other surprises.
More info later.
FLASH # 3!...Since I have posted these notices about the University of Wisconsin "new" Berigan recordings, I have had a number of inquiries about them, and requests that I make dubs of them. Since these recordings belong to the University of Wisconsin, I cannot make dubs of them, or allow copies to be made in any manner that could lead to them being bootlegged. Indeed, I can't even appear on any media to play them, though I have already been asked to do that. I will be working with people at the University of Wisconsin to try to get these recordings cleaned-up, remastered, and issued, with relevant photos and intelligent liner notes. Unfortunately, these recordings, like the "Savory Recordings" owned by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, are in a state of limbo because of the current rather bizarre U.S. copyright laws. (Thank you Sonny Bono and the Disney Co.) In order to determine how they can be issued in conformity with the copyright laws, I will have to work with lawyers who are copyright experts. That will take time. In the meantime, I ask that Berigan aficionados around the globe be patient.
Several people have expressed some doubt that these recordings have never been issued before. I can assure you that the vast majority of them have NEVER been issued. I have had many questions about the sound quality on these recordings. Probably 75% of them are in excellent condition, with superb fidelity. The remaining 25% range in condition from good sound quality with varying amounts of hiss, some skips, etc., to a very few that may not be of sufficient quality to be issued. Finally, I have often been asked: "How was Bunny playing on them?" I can say without reservation that several of these recordings contain as good playing by Bunny as I have ever heard, and I have heard almost all of the recordings Berigan made. In short, these are remarkable recordings that must be issued.
While we are waiting for progress on the issuance of these recordings, I will be periodically uploading short excerpts from them to this website. Then you can hear for yourselves what I am talking about. I hope to have an excerpt ready for uploading very soon.
EXCERPT # 1..."ROYAL GARDEN BLUES" from the Paradise Restaurant, New York City, April 3, 1938.
For the full story of Bunny Berigan's engagement at the Paradise Restaurant in the spring of 1938, go to chapter 16 Maintenance, pages225-239 in "Mr. Trumpet."
More excerpts soon!
I'd love to have your feedback. You can email me at: email@example.com
FLASH #4...The legendary sound engineer DOUG POMEROY has heard the above excerpt and has expressed a desire to work with me to get the University of Wisconsin-Bunny Berigan recordings cleaned-up and remastered. This is a huge step forward because Doug is one of the very few audio restoration specialists around who actually knows how this music is supposed to sound. He uses his many digital and other tools to get the music to sound as close as possible to what it sounded like when it was being played. He has the sensitivity, skill, and experience to make these vintage recordings sparkle. I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with Doug on this project.
More on the 1939 (and other) recordings...
I have been working my way through the 1939 recordings and can report the following: Many of them are acetate copies of the recordings Bunny Berigan made at a session which took place on March 16, 1939 in Manhattan. He was contracted to improvise jazz solos which would later be transcribed/notated and sold as a booklet entitled "All-Star Series of Modern Rhythm Choruses" which was first published in the summer of 1939 by the Leo Feist Co. These recordings were certainly never meant to be issued. They are casual in the extreme, with two takes on only a couple of the ten titles that were eventually transcribed. The objective was to record interesting improvised trumpet solos by Bunny Berigan on some jazz war horses. ("My Blue Heaven," "Swingin' Down the Lane," "Spanish Town," "Linger Awhile," etc.) There are many clinkers as a result, which of course could be (and were) fixed in the transcription process, so the producer got what he was after. (After having spent more than five and a half hours in Victor's Manhattan recording studio the day before, and having spent about two solid months before that on tour through all kinds of severe winter weather, I can certainly understand why Mr. B's chops might have been a bit tired that day).
There were, however, several surprises. The Lee Wiley cut from that session, which is mentioned above, is marvelous. I'm sure that she was in the studio that day only as Bunny's guest. Why she decided to sing, I can't explain. She was definitely accompanied by pianist Joe Bushkin, who would become one of her favorite accompanists.
There are also brief attempts by Berigan at an unnamed minor theme, "Rosetta," and another unnamed theme on which Bunny scats and laughs.
There is also a recording marked as "Soliloquy," which is a duet between Bunny's dramatic/mock dramatic declamation of something wherein he referred to someone known as "Angelotto," Joe Lippman's marvelous piano accompaniment, and a bit of virtuoso trumpet by BB at the end, culminating on a firmly struck concert high D. This recording is remarkable for several reasons. First, it displays Bunny's curiously engaging voice at some length. He does not sing--he declaims, all the way from a whisper to a shout over about a one-minute span. The language he uses is very strange, a mixture of "Italian" (Jerry Colonna-style), to "German," to ??? Maybe he was speaking Esperanto! (Based on this recording, Berigan could have been a very successful radio actor.) Second, the piano accompaniment by Joe Lippman sounds remarkably well-organized, though I can't imagine that Lippman had written anything out for this recording session. And finally, Bunny's trumpet solo to conclude the performance is also quite well-constructed and well-played. My assumption is that this "tune" was simply put together that day in the studio by Bunny and Lippman. I have no idea why.
There are also a couple of lengthy piano solos from this date by Joe Bushkin. These, like "Soliloquy," are not jazz, not melodies of songs that are known to me, but nevertheless were well-done, considering the extreme casualness with which they were made. Bushkin and Lippman evidently shared the various piano chores in the studio that day.
Other recordings that do not come from the March 16, 1939 session are as follows:
There are dubs of several commercial recordings Berigan made: "Because She Reminds Me of You," by the Dorsey Brothers (3-14-34/Vocalion), on which he plays lead trumpet and several excellent jazz solos; "Troubled," by Frank Trumbauer (11-20-34/Victor), which contains some of his greatest playing; and the alternate take of "In a Little Spanish Town," from the Bunny Berigan and His Boys session of 11-23-36/Brunswick).
There are also a couple of dubs that are not by Bunny Berigan. These include Bessie Smith's recordings of "Baby Doll," and "When Your Good Woman is Gone," and a complete copy of Benny Goodman's band playing "Sometimes I'm Happy" on the Camel Caravan broadcast of September 27, 1938, featuring solos by Bud Freeman on tenor sax, and Harry James on trumpet.
Trying to make sense of these 70+ year-old recordings is a lot of fun, but very challenging.
"MR. TRUMPET" featured on Danish Radio
The music of Bunny Berigan and commentary on "Mr. Trumpet" was presented on Copenhagen Jazz Radio on Tuesday November 6, 2012. The program was hosted by jazz expert Tom Buhmann. Mr. Buhmann is working on a biography of the man known in the swing era as the "little giant of the drums," one time Berigan sideman Dave Tough. To link to Copenhagen Jazz Radio, go to: www.radiojazz.dk and click on "netradio." When browsing the Radio Jazz website, make sure to click the translate button to go from Danish to English so you can move around the website more easily. Tom called the program: "Mr. Trumpet--Michael Zirpolo's Bunny Berigan biography." The Berigan music Tom played highlighted portions of the book.
I will add more info about this international jazz event after I have reviewed a recording of the program.
AND YET MORE UNISSUED (AND PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN) BERIGAN RECORDINIGS
Recently, I was privileged to hear approximately a dozen aircheck recordings made by Bunny Berigan in 1937-1938 that have been either previously undocumented or previously unisssued. These include a number of recordings from the Fun in Swingtime radio series from 1937, which featured the Berigan band, as well as some airchecks from the Pennsylvania Hotel in the summer of 1937, and at least one recording from the RCA Magic Key radio series that for some reason is not among the other Magic Key shows now housed at the Library of Congress. As with the University of Wisconsin-Berigan recordings, there is quite a lot of prime Berigan trumpet to be heard on these recordings. I am not at liberty to reveal more specific information about these recordings now, but hope that I will be able to do so very soon.
“Mr. Trumpet” on film?
I have been contacted by Howard Fischer recently about participating is a documentary film project tentatively entitled They Died Before40. The basic premise of the film will be to examine the lives and work of the following jazz musicians, all of whom died before they reached age 40: Fats Waller, Herschel Evans, Bunny Berigan, Charlie Christian, Jimmie Blanton, Chick Webb, Chu Berry, and Clifford Brown. Mr. Fischer is an attorney based in Manhattan who has represented many jazz musicians over the years, was the founder of the New York Jazz Museum in 1972, and its executive director until 1977. He also wrote, directed and produced the acclaimed film The Holland AvenueBoys: A Success Story, which appeared some years ago on over 50 PBS television stations.
The film They Died Before 40 will include classic recordings to illustrate the music of each artist, as well as archival film footage and photos, reminiscences, and the comments of various experts to reveal how and why their careers were cut short. Dan Morgenstern, formerly the Director of the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, and a renowned historian, author, editor and archivist active in jazz since 1958, will be a consultant on the project.
Presently, Mr. Fischer is obtaining various copyright clearances, as well content for the film. He has asked me to assist him with photos of Bunny Berigan, and to be interviewed about Berigan on film. I am very enthusiastic about this project and will post progress reports about it as I receive more information.
"Mr. Trumpet" Goes to College...and around the world
I have been notified that "Mr. Trumpet" has been acquired by over 150 libraries across the United States, Canada, and around the world. That is extremely gratifying for me because people in all of those places can now read and learn about "Mr. Trumpet," Bunny Berigan. I am especially happy that so many colleges and universities have acquired the book. In reviewing the list of those libraries, I am struck by the fact that while Berigan lived and traveled around the eastern and southern U.S., he played at many of those same places of higher learning. A partial list of those colleges and universities follows: Kent State University, Kent OH; Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH; Kenyon College, Gambier, OH; Duquesne University, Carnegie-Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Ohio University, Athens, OH; Western University, London, ON; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Penn State University, University Park, PA; Miami University, Oxford, OH; Ball State University, Muncie, IN; James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA; York University, Toronto, ON; University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN; Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; University of Maryland, College Park, MD; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; University of Louisville, Louisville, KY; University of Deleware, Newark, DE; University of Richmond, Richmond, VA; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Colgate University, Hamilton, NY; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ; University of Illinois-Urbaba-Champagne, Urbana, IL; Duke University, Durham, NC; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC; Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN; North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; New York University, New York, The Juilliard School, Columbia University, Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY; Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY; Fordham University, Bronx, NY; Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI; Furman University, Greenville, SC; University of Wisconsin at Madison, Madison, WI; Yale University, New Haven, CT; Smith College, Northampton, MA; Mount Holyoke College, S. Hadley, MA; Amherst College, Amherst, MA; University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; University of Georgia, Athens, GA; St Louis University, St. Louis, MO; McGill University, Montreal, QC; Emory University, Atlanta, GA; Brown University, Providence, RI; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Tufts University, Medford, MA; Iowa State University, Ames, IO; Colby College, Waterville, ME; University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN; University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO; University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS; University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE; Tulane University, New Orleans, LA; Texas A & M University, Commerce, TX; Baylor University, Waco, TX; University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL; University of North Texas, Denton, TX; University of Texas, Austin, TX; University of Colorado, Boulder, CO; University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY; Brigham Young University, Provo, UT; University of Montana, Missoula, MT; University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB; University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; University of Idaho, Moscow, ID; University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV; Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR; University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Mills College, Oakland, CA; and Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
In addition to these college and university libraries, a number of the shall we say hipper public libraries around the country have also acquired the book. These include the New York Public Library, New York, NY; the Chicago Public Library, Chicago, IL; and the San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, CA.
Overseas libraries that have "Mr. Trumpet" include: The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland; The British Library, Wetherby, West Yorkshire; University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland; The Bavarian State Library, Munich, Germany; and Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Although Bunny Berigan once played at the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, he never played at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., which also has a copy of "Mr. Trumpet."
I am very pleased to announce that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio also has a copy of "Mr. Trumpet" in its library. Perhaps those very astute scholars at the Rock Hall are familiar with Berigan's spirited recording of "Rock and Rollers' Jubilee."
On the Horizon
I have located more Bunny Berigan recordings. The ones I have found are in the hands of a collector in Columbus,Ohio. They were made at a dance the Berigan band played at Valley Dale Ballroom in Columbus on January 19, 1941. (See page 411 in "Mr. Trumpet.") I will soon be listening to them for the first time and will report my findings here. The band Berigan led from the fall of 1940 until the summer of 1941 was in a very real sense his "unknown" band because for a variety of reasons, it was recorded only twice during its approximately ten months of existence. There are no more that a dozen selections known to have been recorded by this band.
I am once again having discussions with the people at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University about appearing there and making a presentation at the Rutgers Roundtable on Bunny Berigan. As this develops, I will publish the details here.
It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that an agreement has been reached between the University of Wisconsin and Alastair Robertson of Hep Records, which will allow previously unissued aircheck and other recordings made by Bunny Berigan in the late 1930s that are housed in the University’s Mills Music Library to be sonically restored, digitally remastered, and issued on the Hep label for worldwide distribution and sale.
Very soon, the acetate disks on which these recordings were made will be shipped from Madison, Wisconsin to sonic engineer Doug Pomeroy in New York City for digital transfers to be made, sonic restoration, and remastering. After that has been done, the acetates will be returned to the Mills Music Library, and the digitally remastered sound files will be sent to Alastair Robertson in Scotland. Mr. Robertson will then begin the production process.
The contemplated CD issue, which we hope will be out this coming summer, will include previously unissued Berigan recordings made while Bunny and his band were at the Hotel Pennsylvania in the spring of 1937, the Paradise Restaurant in the spring of 1938, possibly a recording from their stay at Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan in October of 1938, and a recording that seems to have been made in a studio in the fall of 1938. “I hope to include at least a dozen previously unissued performances on this CD,” said Mr. Robertson recently. “I have heard dubs of the acetates that have not been optimally transferred or sonically restored. Although there is much great playing on them by Bunny and they are pretty good soundwise, until I get the final digital transfers that have been cleaned-up by Doug Pomeroy, I cannot say with certainty exactly how many of them will be of sufficient sound quality for commercial issue. But I hope that the CD will have at least a dozen previously unissued tracks on it. The balance of the tracks on the CD will be rare but previously issued airchecks that all have excellent Berigan playing on them, and range in sound quality from very good to excellent. My objective with this CD is to present as much previously unissued Berigan music as possible in the best sound possible with the best Berigan playing possible.”
Among the musicians who will be heard with Bunny on this CD are: Buddy Rich, George Wettling, Johnny Blowers, drums; Georgie Auld, tenor sax; Joe Dixon, Gus Bivona, Joe DiMaggio, alto sax and clarinet; Sonny Lee and Ray Conniff, trombone; Joe Bushkin and Buddy Koss, piano.
I will assist Mr. Robertson in any way I can with the production of this CD. I will be writing the liner notes, compiling the necessary information about each selection, and providing the photos that will be used.
I will provide continuous reports on the progress of this project on the “Mr. Trumpet” website. You can also go to www.hepjazz.com and scroll down to “Hep Jazz News,” and click.
MICHAEL P. ZIRPOLO
The informal recordings made of Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra at Valley Dale Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio on January 19, 1941 are as follow: "Lover, Come Back to Me"; "Swanee River"; "The Nearness of You," vocal Danny Richards; "Night Song"; and a part of ballad that I do not recognize. These recordings were made by a fan setting a portable disk cutting machine next to the bandstand, and probably holding a microphone in his hand while the recordings were made. Consequently, there is no balance on the band at all, even though the fidelity of the recordings is fairly good. The arrangements on "Swanee River," and "Night Song" are the ones Bunny used with his bands from the late1930s. The arrangements on "Lover, Come Back to Me" and "The Nearness of You" were probably written by either Frank Crolene or Andy Fitzgerald, both of whom were saxophonists in the Berigan band then (Fitzgerald also handled the jazz solos on clarinet). These arrangements are simple and straightforward, and were obviously intended to be used for dance jobs. Berigan's playing is good, though he was definitely not trying for any spectacular jazz or effects. Still, being Bunny Berigan, his playing periodically showed flashes of brilliance. Tenor saxophone soloist Johnny Castaldi, whose sound suggested that of Lester Young, played some very tasty jazz on these recordings. The band is solid and swinging, and I'm sure pleased the dancers at Valley Dale that night.
PROGRESS REPORT 1---March 30, 2013: The acetate recordings from the University of Wisconsin were safely shipped to audio restoration specialist Doug Pomeroy earlier this month. Since then, Doug has made digital transfers of all of the recordings, and has begun the painstaking process of removing clicks, pops, hiss and as much other extraneous noise as possible from them. Doug is also making sure that the pitch on each recording is correct. He has told me that the fidelity on most of the recordings is very good. I have recently heard a preliminary test of what Doug has done to restore "Mahogany Hall Stomp," from a CBS sustaining broadcast emanating from Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City on May 8, 1937, and I can report that the fidelity of the sound is indeed excellent, even on this preliminary version.
One of the most amazing performances in this cache of recordings is on "Moten Swing," from a sustaining broadcast from Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan on October 12, 1938. It features probably the best band Bunny ever led, and includes strong jazz solos from Berigan himself, growling away, using some sort of muting device held partially inside the bell of his trumpet, evoking some sort of large jungle cat on the prowl, and then Georgie Auld on tenor sax, Gus Bivona on clarinet, and Ray Conniff on trombone (he wrote the Basie-influenced arrangement), all swinging hard. They are well backed by the Berigan rhythm team, led by drummer Buddy Rich, whose use of the bass drum to provide off-beat kicks, is especially exciting. This recording was well-played and very worn and noisy, and I had real doubts about whether it could ever be restored sufficiently for release. Fortunately, as a result of the skill and dedication of Doug Pomeroy, it appears that this unique recording will be among the tracks to appear on the Hep CD issue. As this is being written, Doug is still working on "Moten Swing." As soon as I hear a test of Doug's restored version, I will report my impressions here.
PROGRESS REPORT 2---April 21, 2013: Regarding the University of Wisconsin recordings, I continue to get positive reports from Doug Pomeroy, who is now nearing completion of his sonic restoration of these previously unissued recordings, and of a handful of other previously issued but rare Berigan airchecks. After Doug has finished, he will send his remastered sound files to Hep Records producer Alastair Robertson in Scotland. He will make the final decisions as to which recordings will appear on the Hep CD. As soon as I know what the make-up of the CD will be, I will announce it here.
Regarding the documentary film They Died Before Forty, I have been notified by the producer, Howard Fischer, that I will be filmed in Manhattan for the Berigan segment in late May. In the meantime, I am preparing for my on-film interview by studying further about the life, career and tragic death of Bunny Berigan. After I have completed my part in this film, I will report fully on my experiences here.
This is going to be an exciting summer for Berigan aficionados.
PROGRESS REPORT 3---June 6, 2013: Regarding the University of Wisconsin recordings...
The process of sonic restoration for the recordings that will appear on the Hep CD is now finished, as is the selection of tunes. Eleven previously unissued tracks will be presented, as well as a previously unreleased "surprise." I am very pleased with the sound quality on most tracks, which I can declare will be excellent. The few that are not excellent are nevertheless very good, with bright, crisp sound. I am very happy with the tracks chosen, except in one case. "Moten Swing" will not appear on this Hep CD for a number of reasons, the largest of which involves sound quality issues. The sound quality on this recording is much higher than on many vintage recordings that have been commercially issued, but is clearly less than all of the other recordings that will appear on the Hep release. Let's hope that we will see commercial issue of "Moten Swing" in the future. It is a great performance by Bunny's best band.
I am going to say no more about the Hep release at this time because some promotional activities regarding it are now being planned by Hep, and I do not want to undercut those efforts in any way. I will say however that this will be a terrific CD that Berigan aficionados and big band fans will love. The CD should be on the market by early September. I will add more here after the Hep promotions are under way.
Regarding the film They Died Before Forty...
I was in Manhattan recently to film the segments on Bunny Berigan for this film, and found the experience to be most enjoyable. Producer Howard Fischer and his filming/sound crew were very easy to work with. I think we captured some very informative and entertaining material about Berigan on film. Howard has told me that the editing process is now underway. The final film will contain approximately ten minutes of material about each of the featured musicians.
As I receive more information about the completed film, I will post it here.
"Mr. Trumpet" to be published in paperback...
I have been informed by my publisher that "Mr. Trumpet" will soon (today is July 1, 2013) be available in paperback. I have long wished for a much lower price for the hardback book, which retailed for $95.00 when it was first published in the fall of 2011, and since then has slowly moved down in price. (It is now available for $78.36 on Amazon.) Preliminary information is that the paperback will retail for $35.00, which I think is a fair price for a book containing 550+ pages. The info I received from Amazon indicates that they may be selling it for slightly less than $30.00. This development is a very good thing for people who have wanted to buy "Mr. Trumpet," but have found that steep retail price to be off-putting. So all of you who have been waiting to buy "Mr. Trumpet," please check Amazon over the next couple of weeks for the new paperback edition of "Mr. Trumpet." You will be able to buy the same book at 1/3 of the hardback price. I can assure you that that will be a terrific bargain.
PROGRESS REPORT 4---July 1, 2013: Regarding the University of Wisconsin recordings...
Just today I finished proofing the liner notes booklet for the soon to be released Hep CD "Swingin' and Jumpin,' Bunny Berigan broadcasts 1937-1939." The CD itself is currently being manufactured. The final product should be available in Europe in late July, and then be available here in the U.S. about a month later. The CD will have eleven+ previously unissued recordings by Bunny, and eight other swinging tunes that have been issued previously, but are rare. The (+) is for a special surprise for Berigan fans, which I will not give away now. This CD will be a must-buy for Berigan aficionados, and fans of first-class swing music and jazz trumpet.
SEPTEMBER 10, 2013: "Swingin' and Jumpin'" Bunny Berigan broadcasts 1937-1939, Hep CD-96 is now available worldwide. Ironically, the last place this great set of recordings was made available was in the U.S.
Early critical comment on the CD has been very favorable. The major reason for that, of course, is the wonderfully high quality of the performances on it. I will begin to post reviews here as soon as I can post several at once, which should be fairly soon.
In the meantime, here is a link directly to where you can purchase the CD, on Amazon.com:
OCTOBER 27, 2013: Last Sunday, October 20, I had the pleasure of finally meeting (after exchanging emails and phone calls for awhile), Michael Steinman, the animating spirit behind the "JazzLives" website, in Manhattan. Michael, who lives on Long Island, came into the city to hear and record a group of jazz musicians at a wonderfully atmospheric Soho bar called the Ear Inn. I interviewed Michael for an article I will be writing about him, and then he and I went out on the sidewalk in front of the Ear Inn and he recorded an audio/video interview of me by him. Michael's interview of me, which contains a lot of background about how and why "Mr. Trumpet" came to be written, can be accessed by clicking on this link:
At some date in the near future, Michael will post on the "Jazz Lives" website excerpts from the jazz performance he recorded in the Ear Inn last Sunday evening.
DECEMBER 1, 2013 Regarding the film They Died Before Forty...
I recently viewed a nearly completed version of the documentary film They Died Before Forty, and I can report that it is already a wonderful accomplishment, very reminiscent of the Ken Burns jazz documentary. The film is a cornucopia of images and music about jazz legends Chick Webb, Jimmie Blanton, Herschel Evans, Fats Waller, Chu Berry, Bunny Berigan, Charlie Christian, and Clifford Brown. Each artist is also discussed by various authors, musicians and educators. A bit more editing will be done on the film in the coming weeks, and then it should be released sometime in 2014. The producer, Howard Fischer, has promised that a trailer will soon be ready to promote the film. When it is, I will post a link to it here on the "Mr. Trumpet" website.
JANUARY 18, 2014 Research recollections and the birth of a CD release...
Recently, I was contacted by Dana Gerber, a communications specialist at the University of Wisconsin Library System. We had a wonderful conversation about my visits to the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I was there in the fall of 2010, prior to the publication of "Mr. Trumpet," to do some fact-checking, and especially, to gather previously unpublished photos of Bunny Berigan, and those who played a role in his life story. Incredibly, dozens of these images had been hidden away for decades. Many of the photos I obtained are now posted in the photo gallery of this website. I also noticed on my first visit that there were dozens of recordings in the Berigan archive that came from Bunny's personal collection. Among these were a number of acetate disks on which live recordings of radio broadcasts had been transcribed. I took note of these recordings on that first visit, and then planned to return as soon as possible to Madison to work with them.
My next visit occurred in May of 2012, after the book had been published. I drew the recordings out of the stacks and recorded every bit of information I could about them so I could later attempt to identify each performance, fix a date for it, and begin to assemble the other discographical details that would be needed if any of them would ever be issued. The rest of the story is told in Dana Gerber's article, which can be found by clicking on the link below.
FEBRUARY 15, 2014: I will be appearing on April 23, 2014 at the Rutgers Roundtable at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey, presenting music and images of Bunny Berigan, along with my commentary. My host will be Vincent Pelote.
Here is a particularly perceptive review of the Hep CD "Bunny Berigan Swingin' and Jumpin' --Broadcasts 1937-39" by R. Dixon:
"This is a great new release from Hep Records. Most of the performances contained on this disc have never before been issued, so that is a real plus. 'Swingin' and Jumpin' consists of airchecks from live broadcasts of the Berigan band from 1937-1939. Hep is probably the best label today for issuing pre-magnetic tape, rare swing performances. I have no connection with the label other than I have purchased almost every disc in their 1000 series, and most of their other material as well.
The performances in this set of 'live' recordings by the Bunny Berigan band are uniformly disciplined and swinging. It reveals a different Bunny Berigan from his RCA studio releases. On this set, the band is tight, and swings noticeably more than on most of the studio recordings.
Some of the biggest news about this album is the audio restoration. If you are a big fan of Swing Era releases then you know there are a handful of sound restoration experts who provide top-notch restoration of this vintage material. Most of Hep's early catalogue boasts restoration by the legendary, (late) John R.T. Davies. With this release, Hep has continued their legacy of providing the best possible audio restoration by retaining the services of restoration engineer par excellence Doug Pomeroy, and he has worked his magic on these sides. The sound is exceptional on these old sound check recordings, and the selection of music reveals a hard-swinging Berigan band that will surprise those who have only heard the old studio recordings. If you want to hear a working swing band in action, led by a legendary trumpet virtuoso, look no farther than this set. 'Swingin' and Jumpin'" is an essential addition to your Swing music collection."
Bravo Mr. Dixon. You know what you are listening to.
AUGUST 10, 2014: My presentation of the "Sights and Sounds of Bunny Berigan 1930-1942" at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey on April 23 was received very well by an audience of about two dozen very discerning jazz aficionados. Vincent Pelote, my host, was most kind, and made sure that all of the technical aspects of the presentation were handled perfectly. In the audience was jazz guitarist, historian, and bon vivant Marty Grosz, whose insightful questions and commentary, added greatly to the images and music. (A typical Marty insight: when Marty saw a photo of Bunny Berigan walking down a street in Manhattan with the drummer George Wettling, he said: "George was a nice guy, a very good drummer and an accomplished abstract artist. But when he drank, his personality changed. He was known at such times as King Kong.") I hope to see Marty and many other musicians at the Allegheny Jazz Party, to be held this year in Cleveland on September 18-20.
One of the recordings I played at Rutgers was five-plus minute "Moten Swing," from a sustaining broadcast from Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan on October 12, 1938. As I have said, it features probably the best band Bunny ever led, and includes strong jazz solos from Berigan himself, growling away, using some sort of muting device (a kazoo??) held partially inside the bell of his trumpet, evoking some sort of large jungle cat on the prowl, and then Georgie Auld on tenor sax, Gus Bivona on clarinet, and Ray Conniff on trombone (he wrote the Basie-influenced arrangement), all swinging hard. They are well backed by the Berigan rhythm team, led by drummer Buddy Rich, whose rocking back beats and use of the bass drum to provide off-beat kicks, are especially exciting. This performance had feet patting and heads shaking.
A non-musical sidelight from this recording occurs after Bunny finsishes his two-minute solo. Like a power hitter who has just hit a grand slam, he yells YES!!!, as young Georgie Auld begins to play. We must remember that the greatest joys in Bunny's life came whenever he played good jazz while leading his band.
I also played Bunny's lengthy solo from a Tommy Dorsey aircheck in June of 1940 on "Tuxedo Junction." On hearing this, Marty Grosz, who knows a thing or two about chord changes, and how jazz soloists work against them said: "Bunny's playing there was cutting-edge jazz in 1940."
The most rewarding part of my two-hour presentation was the number of smiles on faces that I saw that night. Clearly, the Berigan magic, even when filtered through sometimes less than high fidelity recordings and more than seven decades, is still intact.
I have recently been asked to reprise the presentation I made at Rutgers at the IAJRC convention, to be held in San Antonio, Texas on September 5. The convention will run from September 4-6. It will be a great pleasure for me to make this presentation to my IAJRC brothers and sisters, who I am sure will pepper me with many questions, and enjoy the Berigan pix and music.
SEPTEMBER 14, 2014: I am happy to report that my presentation on September 5 at the IAJRC convention in San Antonio entitled "The Sights and Sounds of Bunny Berigan: 1930-1942," was very well received by an audience that was well-versed in classic jazz. The two-hour plus program included me presenting 125 images, and excerpts of 21 recordings of Bunny's trumpet at its best, as well as questions and comments from the audience. I wish I could adequately describe for you the impression Berigan's playing had on this audience. Let me simply say, they really enjoyed it. Here is the lineup of what they heard:
EXCERPTS OF RECORDINGS BY BUNNY BERIGAN FOR PRESENTATION AT IAJRC CONVENTION, 2014
1)“Them There Eyes” with Hal Kemp’s band; 11-18-30.
2)“Is That Religion?” with Mildred Bailey and the Dorsey Brothers; 4-8-33; arr. Miller.
3)“Troubled” with Frank Trumbauer and Artie Shaw; 11-20-34.
4)“Blues in E Flat” with Red Norvo and His Swing Octet; 1-25-35.
5)“Nothin’ But the Blues” with Gene Gifford and His Orchestra; 5-13-35.
6)“Willow Tree” with Mildred Bailey and Her Alley Cats; 12-6-35.
7)“A Fine Romance” with Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra; 9-29-36.
8)“That Foolish Feeling” Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; 11-23-36.
9)“Blues” with Fats Waller and Tommy Dorsey; 3-31-37.
10)“Turn on That Red Hot Heat” Bunny Berigan and His Orch.; 8-7-37; arr. Lippman.
11)“Ebb Tide” Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; 9-3-37; arr. Lippman.
12)“Ten Easy Lesson” Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; 6-27-38; arr. Lippman.
13)“Moten Swing”* Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; 10-12-38; arr. Conniff.
14)“Blue Lou” Metronome All-Stars; 1-12-39: arr. F. and H. Henderson.
15)“Livery Stable Blues”* Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; July, 1939; arr. Lippman.
16)“I Poured My Heart into a Song”* BB and His Orchestra; 9-26-39; arr. Phillips.
17)“Tuxedo Junction”* with Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra; early June, 1940; arr. Oliver.
18)“Hallelujah!”* with Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra; 6-1-40; arr. Oliver.
19)“Skylark” Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; 3-11-42; arr. Kutch.
20)“I’m Confessin…”* Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; 4-12-42; arr. Kutch.**
21)“Royal Garden Blues”* Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra; 4-3-38; arr. Osser or Rose.
(*) denotes “live” aircheck recording.
(**) this is the last known recording by Bunny Berigan.
NOTE: The aircheck recording of “Moten Swing” is unissued, and has not been heard publicly since it was broadcast live from the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan in October of 1938.
After the program, at least a half dozen people came to me and asked when "Moten Swing" is going to be released. I don't have an answer to that question now, but will be thinking of ways and means of making that happen in some fashion. Many aficionados of classic jazz are familiar with Berigan's better known recordings, but upon hearing many of these less familiar performances, the clear consensus was: "This guy was truly a giant." Once again, the Berigan magic was working very powerfully.
I also learned at the convention that Robert Dupuis, the author of "Bunny Berigan--Elusive Legend of Jazz," passed away last month at his home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He was 87. I am very grateful to have known Bob over the last 25 years. I often consulted him with questions about Bunny Berigan, and he never failed to answer them with the utmost kindness and patience. His Berigan biography, published in 1993, was a pioneering work which moved Berigan scholarship forward. Bob was a true gentleman, and he will be missed.
SEPTEMBER 28, 2014: One of Mr. Trumpet's many friends, Al Salton, of Los Angeles, California, who keeps an eagle eye on all publications relating to classic jazz, has notified me that in the August 2014 issue of The New York City Jazz Record,on page 17, there is a positive review of the Hep CD "Bunny Berigan Swingin' and Jumpin' --Broadcasts 1937-39." The reviewer correctly notes that "Undisputed in the pantheon of trumpet artists is...Bunny Berigan," and that fans of classic jazz should "Give gratitude for this mother lode of music, a vibrant affirmation of Berigan's incontestible greatness." Bravo NYC Jazz Record!
Last weekend I attended the Allegheny Jazz Party, held for the first time at the InterContinental Hotel in Clevelend. The hotel is located on the vast campus of the Cleveland Clinic, on Carnegie and East 96th. The music was provided by two dozen of the finest jazz musicians on the scene today, and it covered many eras of jazz, from the early era of Louis and Bix, through the swing, bop, and post-bop eras. Coincidentally, this hotel is about a five-iron shot from the site of the fabled Trianon Ballroom, which was located at Euclid and East 100th, where Bunny Berigan played many times during the swing era. Among the tunes performed in a medley of Irving Berlin songs was "Marie," which has almost no existence apart from the 1937 Tommy Dorsey/Bunny Berigan landmark recording, and subsequent performances by TD and TD revival bands. Cornetist Randy Reinhart began his jazz solo on "Marie" most appropriately, by blasting out an F, then vaulting to high F in the best tradition of Bunny Berigan. It was a wonderful weekend of mainstream jazz. Thanks to Nancy Hancock Griffith and her mother Kathy Hancock, who did a great job putting this event together. For anyone who is interested in next year's Allegheny Jazz Party, please visit: http://alleghenyjazz.org/
OCTOBER 25, 2014: In the three years since the publication of "Mr. Trumpet," I have been very gratified to have received hundreds of emails, phone calls, and old-fashioned letters from people who wanted to express their opinions about the book. This has been incredibly rewarding for me because these opinions invariably point out things that I may have never considered when researching and writing the book. However, in reviewing those communications recently, I was able to clearly discern a consensus about one feature of the book: the footnotes/endnotes. Every single person who has mentioned them, and there have been many, expressed appreciation for them. I most definitely considered the makeup of footnotes/endnotes when I was preparing the book, and I insisted that they be concise yet complete. The result is very often a quite lengthy endnote, especially those which contain a mini-biography of someone who was important in the story of Bunny Berigan's life, or in the swing era of jazz history. More than once, I had discussions with my editor who expressed the opinion that "the footnotes are too long," or "what you want to do is simply not done." Thankfully, my editor indulged me.
Readers definitely agree that the lengthy endnotes are worthwhile. They have made comments like these very often: "I didn't know that Bunny Berigan worked with Bernard Herrmann and Orson Welles at CBS." "I had heard the name Dave Tough, but really didn't understand who he was or why he was so great." "I never know about the early years in Lester Young's career." "I never knew how Billie Holiday's career got started." "I am so grateful that you explained how John Hammond fit into the swing era." "Thanks for the history of the Stanley Theater."
To make some of those footnotes/endnotes available to the visitors of the "Mr. Trumpet" website, I have decided to begin to present a few of them in the excerpts part of this website. To read some of them, just click on the excerpts tab and scroll down to the place where the words Mr. Trumpet Insights appear.
OCTOBER 26, 2014: "Mr. Trumpet" around the globe...This wonderful autumn weather must be putting me in a reflective mood. As you noted from my entry above, I have recently been reviewing communications of various sorts I have received since the publication of "Mr. Trumpet." Today, I checked various statistics concerning people who have visited this website over the last year. What I found was both interesting, and surprising.
As one would expect, 55% of the visitors are from the USA. 7.5% are from Germany. 6% are from Brazil. Then the percentages range down from 3.5, United Kingdom to 1.0%, Spain. (1%=30 hits.) Here is where the surprises start: there have been multiple hits from Switzerland, Greece, Iceland, India, Argentina, Denmark, Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand, Oman, Hungary, Turkey, South Africa, and many more countries. For some reason, the Finns are especially fond of "Mr. Trumpet," with 33 hits, so are the Swedes, with 57 hits. Single hits were registered from places like: Nepal, Togo, Sri Lanka, Iran, Algeria, Latvia, and Kyrgyzstan.
The conclusions I have reached from this data are: 1) the Internet is an amazing worldwide communication network; 2) people in some very far-flung places have some interest in Mr. Trumpet, Bunny Berigan. So from me to all of Mr. Trumpet's friends around the globe, keep swinging!
MARCH 24, 2015: Hello Berigan fans. It has been quite a while since I have posted anything new on the "Mr. Trumpet" website. That is because I have been frozen in place here until recently by the harsh winter weather we had in Ohio, and have been deeply involved with a couple of other music projects that do not relate to Bunny Berigan. But now, spring is in the air, and with it some news about a new feature of this website. I have decided to post some Berigan recordings, ones that are either extremely rare, or that show Bunny's prowess as a jazz trumpeter, or are simply worth bringing to the attention of a wider audience.
The first such recording I hope to post will be the romping Berigan performance of "Moten Swing" I have referred to many times previously on this website. This recording is among those I found at the University of Wisconsin a few years ago. Its use is governed by various legal agreements with the University. I am currently in the process of obtaining the necessary clearances to post that recording here. With luck, I will be able to post it here very soon to be enjoyed by Berigan fans around the world.
APRIL 8, 2015: Here is "Moten Swing." I will be posting more info about this recording soon. In the meantime, happy listening.
Through the good graces of the University of Wisconsin, I have been able to post this unique performance of “Moten Swing” performed by Bunny Berigan and his orchestra at Roseland Ballroom, New York City on Wednesday October 12, 1938. This broadcast was aired live over the full CBS radio network via a feed from WABC-New York. The well-played acetate disk from which this recording was taken was owned by Bunny Berigan, and is now in the Berigan Archive at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The drop-off of sound in the middle of Ray Conniff’s trombone solo (alas!) is because the recordist had to turn over the ten-inch acetate disk at that point in the performance before he could resume recording. Cutting edge 1938 technology!
The personnel was: Bunny Berigan, first and solo trumpet, directing: Johnny Napton and Irving Goodman, trumpets; Ray Conniff and Andy Russo, trombones; Milton Schatz, lead alto; Arcuiso “Gus” Bivona, alto and clarinet; Clyde Rounds, tenor and baritone; Georgie Auld, tenor, saxophones; Joe Bushkin, piano; Dick Wharton, guitar; Hank Wayland, bass; Buddy Rich, drums.
Although some sources state that “Moten Swing” was composed in 1932 by Kansas City bandleader Bennie Moten, and his brother Buster Moten, my conclusion is that it was actually written by pianist (later bandleader) Count Basie and guitarist/trombonist/arranger Eddie Durham a few weeks or months before it was first recorded by the Moten band for Victor on December 13, 1932. Both Durham and Basie were in the Moten band that made that recording. Originally, it was called “Moten’s Swing.” It is based somewhat on the chord structure of Walter Donaldson’s hit from 1930, “You’re Driving Me Crazy.” Although Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy, another band with strong KC roots, made a good recording of it in early 1936 on Decca, using a fine arrangement by Mary Lou Williams, in my mind, “Moten Swing” has always most strongly been connected with Count Basie and His Orchestra. Basie first recorded it in June of 1937 for Decca, and there are at least two-dozen other recordings of it by Basie from then until 1983. I was fortunate enough to see Count Basie and his band on a number of occasions, and on each of them, “Moten Swing” was performed.
Although Bunny Berigan was undoubtedly aware of the then new Basie band from when it first arrived in New York in late 1936, at that time, he was very busy organizing and rehearsing his own band. And for the next fourteen months, Bunny was very busy leading his band from one successful engagement to another all over the eastern U.S. But on February 20, 1938, in one of those glorious events that happened periodically during the swing era, the Berigan band met the Basie band at the Fordham Club in New York City for a battle of music. The only comment that was made about that event that has survived for posterity was Basie’s admission that the Berigan band “cut” his band, meaning they won the battle. After that event, Bunny Berigan became ever more interested in the Basie style of swing. But his band was built along other swinging lines, so not much happened to change the orientation of the Berigan band, until a young trombonist called Ray Conniff joined in April of 1938. In addition to being a fine jazz trombonist, Conniff was an aspiring arranger. And he was a Count Basie fan. The Berigan version of “Moten Swing” you hear now was arranged by Ray Conniff over the late summer of 1938. It is redolent of Basie.
It is also most significant that this live performance at the moment is the only clearly live performance of drum legend Buddy Rich with the Berigan band. I use the word “clearly” because there is extant (on Hep-CD 96 “Bunny Berigan “Swingin’ and Jumpin’") another recording with Berigan and Rich, “Gangbusters’ Holiday,” and that was also made at Roseland, but may have been a sound check for a later broadcast. Rich’s powerhouse drumming drove the Berigan band for the last six months of 1938.
I must recount at this point a personal experience I had involving Buddy Rich that occurred in the late 1970s while I was in New York attending various events of what was then called the Newport–New York Jazz Festival. A friend and I had traveled from Ohio to New York to spend a week listening to as much music as possible. We both had enormous respect for Buddy Rich, who at that time had been leading his own big band with considerable success for over a decade. We had bought tickets to see Buddy and his band, who that night were on the bill with a few other jazz stars at Carnegie Hall for a concert that was to start at 8:00 p.m. I am habitually early for everything, so my friend and I found ourselves outside of Carnegie Hall at about 7:15. Since it was too early to enter, we decided to walk around near Carnegie Hall until about 7:45, then go in.
As we began to stroll south on the Seventh Avenue sidewalk next to Carnegie Hall, we encountered Buddy Rich walking toward us, smoking something. I knew that Mr. Rich could be nasty, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to attempt to speak with the great Buddy Rich. As we met on the sidewalk I said, “Excuse me, Mr. Rich, I want to tell you that I have always enjoyed your playing.” He glared at me and exhaled smoke through his nostrils like a bull in a bull ring. “Yeaaaaah,” he said. Sensing that I was getting nowhere fast, I decided to try an abrupt change of direction. Knowing that Rich dearly loved Count Basie, I then asked him: “When did you first hear Count Basie?” The expression on his face suddenly changed to a toothy smile. “How did you know about me and Basie?” he asked. I mumbled something stupid, and he cut me off: “I was with Bunny Berigan. We were in New York for a few days, and Bunny had a rehearsal and wasn’t too happy with the way we were playing. So he stopped the rehearsal and said, ‘You guys need to go see Count Basie’s band. He’s playing over on Fifty-second Street at the Famous Door. That will do you more good than rehearsing!’ So I went with Georgie Auld, Joe Dixon, Ray Conniff, and Joey Bushkin. We were all overwhelmed by the way the Basie band played. They swung so hard; it was so light, but powerful. Everyone was blown away by Lester Young. Everyone but Georgie, that is. He dug Herschel Evans.” Rich then took another puff, and said, “Hey, I gotta go in and do the show.” He then turned and walked south on the Seventh Avenue sidewalk to the rear of Carnegie Hall and disappeared into the stage door. We entered Carnegie Hall, and watched Buddy play the devil out of his drums that night.
Soon after the incident described by Buddy Rich, an arrangement of “One O’Clock Jump,” written by Ray Conniff, entered the Berigan band’s repertoire. Other Basie-inspired Conniff originals also started to enter the Berigan band’s library then including “Gangbusters’ Holiday,” a clever tweaking of “King Porter Stomp”; “Familiar Moe,” later to be recorded by Artie Shaw as “Prelude in C Sharp Major,” a refashioning of “A Study in Brown”; “Savoy Jump,” aka “Trylon Trot” aka “Perisphere Swing,” also later recorded by Artie Shaw, as “Just Kiddin’ Around”; and a romping blues, “Little Gate’s Special,” which Conniff based on Basie’s “Boogie Woogie (I May be Wrong).” With Bunny Berigan’s patronage, Ray Conniff was well and truly launched as one of the better arrangers and composers of jazz originals. He went on to a major career in popular music.
This performance can aptly be described as a swinging romp. The solos are by Berigan, Georgie Auld on tenor saxophone, Gus Bivona on clarinet, and Ray Conniff on trombone. The exciting back beats are laid down as only Buddy Rich could, with the band supporting the soloists in exuberant fashion. That is Berigan by the way, who yells “YES!!!” a few bars into Auld’s solo, and Rich who can be heard toward the end of Conniff’s solo yelling “Yes Ray!”