From the Record Shelves #221

I Want to be Bad

CD Retrieval RTR79055

One advantage of the CD format is that it contains more. In the case of hot dance music it means that you get more than a glimpse of the vast output of some orchestras. Even if it still has to be a compilation there is a difference between, let’s say, 14 numbers on an LP and like, in this case, a double CD with Ben Bernie’s orchestra containing 48 tunes.

We get a good dose of nice melodies, precise ensemble playing, and short jazz solos. And we also get a picture of the band’s development from 1923 until 1929.

The orchestra’s instrumental star and major jazz soloist was Jack Pettis on the C-melody sax, a true pioneer on the instrument who is said to have inspired, among others, Lester Young with his soft-toned, well-phrased playing.

Another jazzman in the ranks was Bill Moore who came over from the California Ramblers in 1925. He’s unfortunately not featured much in this band but had a chance to shine when Pettis organized some sessions under his own name with a smaller group.

Still, here we get to hear him with his muted hot style when he comes close to the microphone for an extra solo. The reason for “extra” is that the take was aimed at the South American market and the vocal was replaced by an instrumental chorus.

Ben Bernie (1891–1943) who’s real name was Benjamin Anzelevitz had Russian parents. At an early age he became proficient on violin, and played in Carnegie Hall at fourteen, but preferred to make a career in vaudeville to playing classical music. His band leading business began in 1920 and really got on its feet when he landed a job at the newly opened Hotel Roosevelt in the heart of Manhattan.