Hi -- welcome to my Jazz and Swing music section. This page includes reviews or records by artist under the letter "H". More reviews and artist profiles can be found at the Main Jazz Index
The squeeky-voiced Connie Haines played opposite young Frank Sinatra in Tommy Dorsey's early '40s orchestra: Ole Blue Eyes sang the schmaltzy romantic material and Connie -- in an interesting gender turnaround -- sang the uptempo, bluesy "rhythm" numbers. This disc collects some of her best live performances on various radio dates. Lotsa fun stuff, including a couple of tracks with Dorsey's crack vocal ensemble, the Pied Pipers, and plenty of punchy big band arrangements to back her up. Since Dorsey ran such a tight, professional organization, these live performances aren't much different than the studio versions that are out on other Dorsey collections. But this album does focus in on Haines herself -- a long overdue recognition of her talent, and it's pretty enjoyable from beginning to end. Recommended!
One of the first female star jazz vocalists, the trilling, songbirdish Adelaide Hall came to fame as a lead player in the early stage productions of Sissle & Blake, starring in several black musical revues of the 1920s. She recorded with Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and a young Art Tatum, and toured Europe extensively, eventually finding a berth at the fabled Moulin Rouge music hall in Gay Paris. Hall's vocal style may be a bit prim and proper for most jazz fans -- like Ethel Waters, she skirted the divide between art songs and the blues, while perhaps overemphasizing each style just a tad. I like her bluesy tunes well enough, but when she drifts towards the more florid pop-operatic that became her metier, I start to tune out. This generously programmed 26-song CD gives a great picture of this somewhat neglected pioneering vocalist, and yet, it must be said, there may be a reason why her legacy has suffered -- Hall's style was pretty prissy-sounding and mannered, and may wear thin after a while. It's worth checking out, but the results are variable.
Lionel Hampton "The Chronological Lionel Hampton: 1950-1951" (Classics, 2002)
This might be for completists only. Vibrophonist Lionel Hampton led a legendarily upbeat, bop-friendly big band, with a heavy R&B flavor. At times it may have been a bit much; the pace can be a little unrelenting, the charts and tight brass attack start to sound a lot alike from song to song. Still, it's muscular and lively music, even if the nods towards hard jazz seem to undercut Hampton's melodic strengths: on most of these songs his vibes are simply buried under an avalanche of aggressive rhythms and horn arrangements, although pianist Milt Buckner helps cut through the swath from time to time. On this disc, the 11th in the complete Classics series, Hampton and his band move from the Decca label to the more pop-oriented MGM; along the way they cut several vocal numbers... In general, Hampton didn't attract the top vocal talent -- for starters, skip past some of the tracks featuring flat-voiced songbird Janet Thurlow, and you'll be alright. His manic, perky pop version of the klezmer-themed "Shalom, Shalom" is probably the album's greatest oddity.
Perhaps more of a novelty singer than a torch or jazz stylist, Annette Hanshaw nonetheless had a pleasant appeal, an interesting admixture of unabashed cuteness and sly worldliness that seemed perfectly in tune with the devil-may-care, Fitzgeraldian whoopdedoo of the 1920s Jazz Age, when her star was in full swing. Hanshaw started singing professionally right at the tail end of the pre-Depression era, and rode high during the early years of the crash... You can easily see why, her squeaky, Helen Kane-ish voice is a simple delight, joyful and unpretentious, and particularly appealing when backed by some of the top jazz sessionmen of the time, folks such as Bunny Berrigan, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti and others... Originally issued as a vinyl LP in the 1980s, this set bears the usual Take Two label stamp of enthusiasm and authenticity, and has fine sound quality as well. For a nice nostalgic slice of old-fashioned, innocent pop-jazz vocals, this disc's a doozy.
This 2-CD set covers all the Columbia studio singles crooner Dick Haymes recorded with bandleader Harry James during a fabled 1939-1941 association wherein Haymes was famously brought in as the replacement for bobbysoxer idol Frank Sinatra. Also included are a handful of tunes recorded with Benny Goodman, during a short stint with his band. It's all delightfully corny, cornball material -- Haymes was a real smoothie, with a light, silken baritone and an unabashed penchant for syrupy sentiment. He doesn't seem as heartfelt as many of his big band contemporaries, but he's certainly a man of his times. If you dig schmaltzy, romantic pop vocals (and the sweet sound of James' sleek arrangements) then this is a set you'll wanna check out.
Dick Haymes "Star Eyes" (Jass, 1992)
A swell set of live 1943-1950 radio performances, capturing Haymes at his most Sinatra-esque. This chronologically arranged, 31-song set is generously programmed and well-paced, more fun and more engaging than other Haymes collections I've heard, and more lively than many of his studio performances. Great between-song banter with Haymes and the various bandleaders and announcers. Recommended!
A swell collection of one of the most successful (and least well remembered) of the "sweet bands" of the WWII era. California-born bandleader Horace Heidt was perhaps more of a showman than a serious musician, but his organization certainly knew how to entertain. Shorn of the live stage shows and prize contests that helped boost his national popularity, Heidt's recorded legacy still has plenty of bounciness and charm. Besides the welcome emphasis on lyrics and vocalists, one amusing motif that runs through these songs is his fondness for Hawaiian-style slide guitar, which is used fairly haphazardly, but with great enthusiasm, as a novelty effect. This disc tracks Heidt's career through two dozen tunes, gathered in strictly chronological order... It's fun stuff, including some loopily arranged versions of various standards such as "That Old Black Magic" and "Over The Rainbow."
Ah, the power of pure, delirious schmaltz! British sweet band singer Chick Henderson was the UK's main popularizer of Cole Porter's "Begin The Beguine," a song he recorded in 1939 with the Joe Loss orchestra... Henderson had a smooth, deep-throated style, with mahogany tones and terribly, terribly earnest delivery. It's wonderful stuff -- corny, romantic, emotive and precise in that old, old-fashioned way. Recommended for folks who like unabashed, unmoderated sentimentalism...
Fletcher Henderson "Blue Rhythm: Original 1931-1933 Recordings" (Naxos, 2003)
A fine budget-line look at bandleader Fletcher Henderson at the peak of his powers, just before the 1934 dissolution of his own orchestra, with his all-star lineup still intact ... Among others, saxophone pioneer Coleman Hawkins was apprenticing in Henderson's band at the time, as was bassist and future bandleader John Kirby; Red Allen and Dickie Wells came on board in '33, filling out the roster in this talented ensemble. I have to confess, I've always found this particular stripe of instrumental jazz a hit-or-miss proposition, and though I know Henderson was historically important as a pioneering composer-arranger, I still find this toot-tootling post-Dixieland, modernized trad jazz is best sampled in small doses (i.e. a little bit goes a long way...) But if you want to check Henderson and his crew out, this is a fine place to start.
Billie Holiday - see artist profile
Sexy, sassy, saucy blues tunes sung by LA-based pianist Helen Humes, at the peak of her powers, playing a jump blues and R&B with a delicacy that belies the raciness of the lyrical content. This set includes several sizzling live tracks that show the crowds going completely koo-koo over Ms. Humes... and understandably so: she surges with charismatic power and sexual energy. This is really fun stuff... highly recommended! (Since this older European album doesn't seem to be available on Amazon, I've included links below to other releases that should be of comparable quality... Enjoy!)
Helen Humes "The Chronological Helen Humes: 1927-45" (Classics, 1996)
Helen Humes "The Chronological Helen Humes: 1945-1947" (Classics, 1999)
Helen Humes "The Chronological Helen Humes: 1948-50" (Classics)
Now, I am admittedly a big fan of corny, old-fashioned, blues-tinged jazz-pop from 'way back when, but this set is perhaps a bit too prissy and genteel for even me. Singer-pianist Leslie Hutchinson was born in the East Indies around the turn of the century, but he moved to New York City just as the Harlem Renaissance was coming into full swing. "Hutch," as his devotees like to call him, absorbed a lot of the goings-on, but found himself a bit of a small fish in a big pond, and eventually headed for Europe -- first Paris, then London -- where he helped light up the nightlife, both as a cabaret performer and as a socialite. He was a protege of Cole Porter, and recorded many of his songs, and maintained a pretty healthy career right up through the late 1940s. This 2-CD set spans the breadth of the recordings he made in London, spanning back to the late '20s and up through the post-WWII era. It's stuff that I feel I should like, but nonetheless find pretty inaccessible... It's just too stilted and queenie for me, although anyone looking for Hutchinson's work (which was once pretty hard to find) will be pretty jazzed to find such an abundant and authoritative collection. Worth checking out, but it's not for everyone.
Betty Hutton - see artist profile
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