Monday, September 12, 2005
Lee Castle with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra: The Big Bad Train (Epic S-9324)
In the aftermath of rock 'n' roll's huge outburst in the late 50s, several big band and jazz artists did their best to adapt their music to this new "fad." In fact, Jimmy Dorsey had a monster 1957 hit with a tune called "So Rare." Unfortunately, Jimmy died not too long afterward leaving his band to try to carry on without him. Hence this 1959 45, which wasn't a big hit, but is still an interesting attempt to blend a big band sound with a rock 'n' roll beat.
I first ran across this song on an aircheck from the late, lamented Pete Meyers, better known (eternally known?) as The Mad Daddy to Cleveland radio listeners of the period. He did his usual rhyming patter over the start of this record, ending with something like "'The Big Bad Train'/it's coming through/oh, I LIKE IT!/CHOO-CHOO-CHOO!" Leave it to The Mad Daddy to know something good when he heard it.
But he didn't say who the artist was, so I had to do a little snooping around. I did find a source who had the record and found out the artist was one Lee Castle. I promptly got the record and was a bit astounded to find the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra also credited. Well, sometimes cool things pop out of Squaresville and so it is with this song.
As it turns out, a Google search reveals that Castle had been long active as a jazz trumpeter playing throughout the 30s and 40s with such stalwarts as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and many others. He ran his own orchestra briefly and unsuccessfully in 1940. But he got his chance to try again when Jimmy Dorsey fell ill in the mid 50s. He filled in for the ailing Dorsey and took over the orchestra when Dorsey died, running it successfully through 1970. Now, let's get back to the music.
It starts out with the ting-a-ling-a-ling of a cymbal and then goes into a steady beat with the drummer giving it his all, topped off by bass and lowdown guitar. Then, the sax man blows the main melody, followed by an onslaught of big band brass joining him nearly knocking him off the podium. But he doesn't give up and he fights back with a round of sultry sax before the brass gives one big burst. Quick pause. Ting-a-ling-a-ling again. Bass, drums and guitar again. Sax and big band horns again. Horn blast. Ting-a-ling. Low horn blast signalling the stopping of the train and the end of the record.
Take my word, it's really cooler than it sounds in words. Rock and roll and big band really do meet here and the marriage is a happy one. For a few minutes, anyway.