Hot Track: Rumpus Room

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Newly signed to MGM Records in 1951, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco formed a powerhouse big band featuring Bernie Glow, Don Joseph, Dickie Mills and Dale Pierce (tp); Frank “Ace" Lane, Al Robertson and Fred Zito (tb); Buddy DeFranco (cl); Angelo Cicalese and Gene Quill (as); Buddy Arnold and Eddie Wasserman (ts); Danny Bank (bar); Teddy Charles (vib); Teddy Corabi (p); Bill Anthony (b); Frank DeVito (d) and Bonnie Richards (vcl).

One of the hottest songs in the band's book was Rumpus Room, which strangely was credit to Lenny Lewis, Buddy's manager at the time. Said Buddy in a NEA Jazz Master interview in 2006 with Molly Murphy:

“Lenny was a little guy, he kind of had a hunchback, big nose, glasses, very intense but brilliant guy. Yeah, and knew music, he could tell you, I mean he knew what was good. A lot of times I should have listened to Lenny Lewis, in terms of what I played and organized in the band, but I wouldn’t have it, you know. He was a manager; keep your nose out of my music. But he was bright, very bright guy. The only thing is he was too bright, and he had too much ambition. He wanted me to be a famous band."

Rumpus Room seems to have kicked off Buddy's radio broadcasts: “I had a theme song where I would start cold on the clarinet, play something—bla bla bla bla bla (singing)—and then the band would come in. It was pretty impressive, called Rumpus Room."

Assuming the music was indeed written by Lewis rather than a credit given to him by Buddy as a payment for services rendered, the tune certainly was arranged by someone with enormous writing chops. Guessing from the sound of the barn-burner, I'd say it was Tiny Kahn. [Photo above of Tiny Kahn in the late 1940s by William P. Gottlieb]

Here's Rumpus Room, recorded March 26, 1951...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

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