Tommy Dorsey Biography
Tommy Dorsey (1905 – 1956) was a jazz trombonist and bandleader in the Big Band era. Thomas Dorsey was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania and is the younger brother of Jimmy Dorsey. He worked with many bands in the New York City area starting in the 1920s, including the bands of Rudy Vallee, Vincent Lopez, and Paul Whiteman. With brother Jimmy, he led the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra until they split up (with some acrimony) in 1935. The brothers also appeared as session musicians on many jazz recordings. Tommy Dorsey formed his own band, which was very successful, scoring 137 Billboard chart hits. His best-known song was I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, which showcases his high range and smooth legato style and earned him the nickname “the sentimental gentleman of swing.” The band featured trumpeters Bunny Berigan and Charlie Shavers, arranger Sy Oliver, and singers Jo Stafford, Dick Haymes and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra achieved his first great success as a vocalist in the Dorsey band and claimed he learned breath control from watching Dorsey play trombone. Dorsey said his trombone style was heavily influenced by that of Jack Teagarden, and Dorsey himself influenced trombonists including Urbie Green. "He would take a musical phrase and play it all the way through seemingly without breathing for eight, ten, maybe sixteen bars. How in the hell did he do it? I used to sit behind him on the bandstand and watch, trying to see him sneak a breath… I discovered he had a 'sneak' pinhole in the corner of his mouth -- not an actual pinhole, but a tiny place where he was breathing [this was something Pop Dorsey had taught him]. In the middle of the phrase, while the tone was still being carried through the trombone…[he'd] take a quick breath and play another four bars with that breath. Why couldn't a singer do that, too?… It was my idea to make my voice work in the same way as a trombone or violin -- not sounding like them, but 'playing' the voice like those instruments." - Frank Sinatra
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