fbpx
Home » blog » Red Norvo was Mr. Swing
Jazz

Red Norvo was Mr. Swing

Red Norvo had to be good: Being called “Mr. Swing” in an era in which swing was king suggests a tremendous amount of respect (or an extraordinary publicist).

Here is the second paragraph of NPR’s profile of Kenneth Norville, who was born in 1908 in Beardsville,IL:

Credited with bringing the xylophone, formerly a vaudeville instrument, into jazz, Red Norvo was a sideman with Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman and Woody Herman. Norvo led one of the most admired bands of the swing era, and he served as a catalyst for the career of musicians whose ranks include Charles Mingus. While Norvo received acclaim throughout his life, his innovations on the mallet instruments were far ahead of his time. (Continue Reading…)

I suppose I should look up the difference between the xylophone and the vibes, as most famously played by Lionel Hampton. In any case, Norvo played with all the greats. He was married, naturally, to Mrs. Swing:

Red Norvo was born Kenneth Norville in Beardstown, Illinois. The story goes that he sold his pet pony to help pay for his first marimba. Norvo’s career began in Chicago with a band called “The Collegians”, in 1925. He played with many other bands, including an all-marimba band on the vaudeville circuit, and the bands of Paul WhitemanBenny GoodmanCharlie Barnet, and Woody Herman. Norvo recorded with Mildred Bailey (his wife), Billie Holiday,Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra, among others. Together, Red and Mildred were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Swing.” He also appeared in the film Screaming Mimi (1958), playing himself, and in Ocean’s 11, backing Dean Martin‘s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?“.(Continue Reading…)

Above is Norvo playing “Waiting for the Sunrise” alongside Benny Goodman. Below is “The Girl from Ipanema.” Both are great, for different reasons: The first for the unbelievable virtuosity of both men, the second for the beauty and elegance of the performance and, of course, the fact that it is such a pretty song.

Sign Up for TDMB Daily Email Blasts

TDMB offers daily one-video email blasts. A different genre each day of the week. They are quick hits: Just great music and a bit of context.

Sign up below or, for more info, click here.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵

The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.