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Jazz Street: Harry James

posted February 12, 2016, 1:56 am by Nathaniel Lathy | Filed Under Jazz Street, Throwback Thursday | comment Leave a Comment

Harry James

Harry James was too pop for the critics when he hit it big in the 1940s. Critics are now taking a second look these days at James’ music and finding it brilliant. Harry died in 1983 at the age of 67. His legacy makes him one of the great artists of the swing era. Whether playing instrumentals or working with singers such as Frank Sinatra, James delighted audiences. He showed his prowess as a band leader in movies such as the wonderful “Two Girls and a Sailor” with June Allyson, Gloria De Haven and Van Johnson. It shouldn’t be underestimated the value of music entertaining audiences. In the 1950s with the rise of Be-Bop an audience emerged, which had little use for James. Styles come and go. There are still audiences, who want to thrive with the standards. The golden age of movies was well served by James. And much of the best popular music recorded came out in the 40s, and James was a big part of it. Be-Bop and free jazz don’t appeal to many current listeners, and it’s harder to find practitioners of those styles these days. Still there are people out there listening including me.

There’s no sense worrying about whether music is too commercial. Profitability does have its advantages. James enjoyed playing the music he recorded and performed. Having people still listening to these cuts after all these years is a testament to the quality of his work. He worked with the best such as Sinatra, who’s “All or Nothing at All” is one of James more memorable songs. The wonderful “I’ll Get By” was given strong treatment with Dick Haymes on vocals. I’m not going to put emphasis on James’ acting ability, but I’m not going to discourage people from watching the movies either. No film buff can enjoy the movies from pre-’70 without watching musicals, and James did his part to enhance the best years of Hollywood.


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