Jimmy Dorsey Day

February 26, 1904 – June 12, 1957


A tribute to the famous bandleader

Alto-saxophonist, clarinetist and bandleader Jimmy Dorsey was born on February 26, 1904 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

The older brother of trombonist Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy was taught trumpet by his father, playing with his father’s band when he was just seven.

At 11 he began learning alto and clarinet, still playing trumpet on an occasional basis.

In the 1920s, the Dorsey Brothers co-led Dorseys’ Novelty Six (later renamed Dorseys’ Wild Canaries) and the Scranton Sirens.

Jimmy Dorsey became a busy studio musicians beginning in 1925, making an impression on his recordings with Red Nichols’ Five Pennies, the California Ramblers, Jean Goldkette, Frankie Trumbauer and Paul Whiteman; he was one of jazz’s first great alto-saxophonists in addition to being a major clarinetist.

In addition to quite a bit of studio work, he co-led the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, a recording group during 1928-33 that became a regularly working band in 1934.

After a fight onstage with his brother, Tommy left the group to form his own big band while Jimmy renamed the ensemble the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.

While his big band could play jazz, Jimmy Dorsey often recorded vocal pieces, dance band numbers and novelties, making it big in the early 1940s with a series of numbers featuring the joint vocals of Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberle.

Dorsey played jazz now and then, leading a small group out of his big band called The Original Dorseyland Jazz Band during 1949-50.

His big band was struggling by then, and in 1953 he rejoined his brother in a new nostalgia-oriented Dorsey Brothers Orchestra that lasted until their deaths during 1956-57.

Here is a fun short that Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra made in 1948.

-Scott Yanow

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