Monday Notes

Tommy Dorsey, I’m in a Dancing Mood. Jazz music for dance

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[Monday Notes no. 74] The 1930s were the heyday of the great jazz dance orchestras. In the midst of the severe economic crisis, music had a consolatory function, providing cheap entertainment to forget the hardships of everyday life. Let us analyse a classic of the time, I’m In a Dancing Mood by Tommy Dorsey.

In the 1930s, dance halls were reasonably priced, not least because the largest ones could accommodate up to two or three thousand people. In some cases there were even two orchestras, one on each side, and they battled it out, seeking the approval of very skilled and demanding dancers.

Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra was certainly not one of the most innovative, but it sounded perfect. Unlike many of his colleagues Tommy Dorsey did not like to improvise, he preferred to play arrangements that were written down in full.

I’m in a dancing mood is an excellent example of music written and played specifically for dancing. Tommy Dorsey’s trombone has an almost flute-like timbre, soft and sweet, and he plays the theme first. Next comes Jack Leonard (1’16”), the male voice of the orchestra.

Tommy Dorsey knew how to choose his singers, the female voice of his orchestra was in fact Edythe Wright, one of the best singers of the time. In 1939, Dorsey also hired Frank Sinatra, helping to make him a success.

The lyrics of the song are light-hearted and unpretentious. At one point it reads:

“My troubles are lighter too, When I’m with you”

We often hear comparisons today between the current economic crisis and that of the 1930s. Who knows, maybe music can still have a consolatory function and give us some rest. We may not be able to listen to Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra live, but we have countless records to keep us entertained!

Until next Monday

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