May 23 2013
For your late-40s Gangster Squad party, you’re going to want a decent mix of big band, jazz and radio hits to keep your guests delighted and on the dance floor. We’ve included some recommendations, just to help you get the ball rolling in the right direction. Just remember: there should be at least four upbeat songs for every ballad. You don’t want to depress the hell out of your guests…
Incredibly popular after their work with the USO during World War II, the Andrews Sisters were the second most successful recording act of the decade, just behind Bing Crosby. So it would stand to reason that a few of their famous duets (or are they quartets) should make it on to your playlist.
‘though the biggest recording artists of the era may have been the likes of Crosby and Sinatra, when it came to the music of the dance halls, there were few bigger names than that of Duke Ellington. Be sure to mix up a number of big band tunes, just to get the good folk dancin’. But remember boys: your hands should never wander far below the small of her back!
Of course, when you’re talking about big band music, you can’t forget that most of the tunes were arranged from standards of the day. Take, for example, this cool brassy take on Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin. For years, Tony Parker played sax for temperamental bandleader Artie Shaw. Leading his own orchestra in this track, he became an occasional vocalist whose exuberant tenor was styled after his musical hero, Louis Armstrong.
The D is silent, but his guitar certainly wasn’t. Raised in a French-Romani family, Reinhardt’s career spanned decades and continents, where he was eventually recognised as a musical pioneer and a virtuoso. His technique on the guitar was truly revolutionary despite the paralysis of some fingers on his left hand after a serious accident. Here he is on a track with his long-time collaborator Stéphane Grappelli with a song written by Kern and Hammerstein for the Broadway musical Very Warm for May.
It isn’t the 1940s without the the embarrassing co-opting of slave culture by enthusiastic college men. On this particular track, famed radio personality/chorale leader Fred Waring conducts thirteen guys in tuxedos to performed James Weldon Johnson’s classic spiritual. It’s doesn’t quite reach ‘Mammy’ -levels of cringeworthiness but it’s not far off, either. If you were to ignore that, however: you’ll find a pretty catchy little number!
No party of the period would be complete without an appearance from the First Lady of Song. In this, the first of her collaborations with Bill Kenny and the Ink Spots, Ella Fitzgerald drops in halfway through to bring home this smooth number. The song went to the top of the US pop charts in 1944: her first #1 in over 8 years!
Belonging to a generation of jazz men that included Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. Recorded at the high of his addiction to Heroin and alcohol, first released this single in 1946 – one of his many recordings with bird-themed titles (others being Bird Gets the Worm, The Yardbird Suite and Bird of Paradise). For Charlie Parker, it really seems that the bird was the word.