Although a somewhat forgotten figure today, Sam Donahue was a sideman with Gene Krupa, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw’s Navy Band, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. When the big band era ended he fronted Tommy Dorsey’s ghost band which featured alumni like Charlie Shavers and the Pied Pipers.
This reissue showcases Donahue’s own big band recordings up to the immediate post-war years. His band had a hard-swinging Jimmie Lunceford approach on the early titles and the leader, who is the principal soloist, had an attractive Georgie Auld by way of Lester Young sound on tenor.
The most jazz-oriented titles here are by the navy band which Sam took over after Artie Shaw left the service. The sleeve does not identify the personnel for this particular ensemble but the Bill Harris-like trombone heard on C Jam Blues, Dinah and Moten Swing might be Tak Tavorian. The Charlie Shavers inspired trumpet is possibly John Best, who had just left the Glenn Miller band. The small group titles (Hollywood Hop, Round The Block and Catch As Catch Can) have some fine alto from Willie Smith.
Most of the vocalists are burdened with less than memorable material but Mynell Allen impresses on Take Five (not to be confused with Paul Desmond’s original of the same name) and Just The Other Day with her bright Anita O’Day-like approach. Over the years Donahue benefited from a series of top 10 Billboard hits like I Never Knew, A Rainy Night In Rio, My Melancholy Baby, Red Wing and The Whistler which helped keep the band afloat. But by 1948 he had decided to call it a day as a touring big band leader.
CD1: (1) It Counts A Lot; Lonesome; Skooter; Au Reet; Loafin’ On A Lazy Day; Saxophone Sam; Do You Care?; Six Mile Stretch; Pick Up The Groove; Half A Heart; Flo Flo; I’ll Never Tire Of You; Just As Though You Were Here; Manhattan Serenade; I’m Old Fashioned; (2) C Jam Blues; Dinah; Moten Swing; Just You Just Me; LST Party; I’ve Found A New baby; Convoy; Cocktails For Two (71.02)
CD2: Hollywood Hop; Round The Block; Catch As Catch Can; (3) Dinah; Gypsy Love Song; Take Five; I Left My Heart In Mississippi; Just The Other Day; Constellation; September In The Rain; Put That Kiss Back Where You Found It; Scufflin’; Out In The Cold Again; A Rainy Day In Rio; It’s Anybody’s Love Song; Suicide Leap; My Melancholy Baby; I Can’t Believe It Was All Make Believe; I Never Knew; Red Wing; The Whistler; Saxa Boogie; I’ll Get Along; Robbins Nest; Tacos, Enchiladas And Beans (72.26)
Donahue (ts) with collective personnel: Harry Gozzard, Bud Davis, Mitch Paul, Fern Caron, Peter Abramo, John Best (t); Kenny Meisel, Ken Haughey, Tak Tavorian, Dick LeFave, Eddie Bert, Harry DiVito, Ollie Wilson (tb); Bill Nichol, John Forys, Willie Smith, Harry Peterson (as); Max Krisman, Paul Petrilla, Dom Brindley, George Perry (ts); George Perry, Otto Brenner, John Slawson (bar); Count Basie, Wayne Herdell, Rocky Coluccio, Bob Durant (p); John Jordan, Ben Haller (elg); Walter Sherman, Nick Manley, Leo Mazza (b); Harold Hahn, Jimmy Pratt (d); Frances Wayne, Irene Day, Mynell Allen, Bill Lockwood, Shirley Lloyd (v). (1) NYC, 1940-42. (2) NYC, 1945. (3) NYC, 1946-48.
Acrobat Music ADDCD3370