From the Record Shelves #231


LP RCA Vintage Series LPV-581

As you can expect, there is a display of Bunny Berigan’s virtuosity and talent here, a lot of “take it, Bunny!” where he shows off his skills and power. Impressive as it is, I still prefer the reading of a handful of arrangements of Bix Beiderbecke’s compositions supplied by Joe Lipman.

As is often the case, Bunny Berigan (1908–1942) prodigy or not, had all the necessary tools to get an early start in music thanks to his family. His mother played piano, and Bunny started with the violin, but it was his grandfather, a local band leader, who brought him a trumpet and took him in his band to play dance dates before he was thirteen.

In the end of the 1920s he was playing with Hal Kemp’s Orchestra, and then his career as one of the top musicians of his era took shape in the first half of the next decade, when, among other things, he was a featured hot soloist in the studios. Benny Goodman’s and Tommy Dorsey’s successful swing orchestras made good use of his services, and then he himself ventured into the big band business with less good results.

When this was recorded in 1938, his band was working all right with good sidemen like Ray Conniff on trombone, George Auld on tenor sax and Buddy Rich on drums.

What I really like here, except the composition from Beiderbecke’s “Modern Piano Suite,” is the emotion that Bunny puts into his lead playing. It’s a very sincere tribute to Bix, the late cornet star.