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Red Norvo's Spotlight Band on Film

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The distinguished jazz film scholar Mark Cantor offers another cinematic mystery:

“In Back Beats and Rim Shots, Warren Vache and Johnny Blowers discuss a band put together by Red Norvo, under the sponsorship of Coca Cola, for an overseas tour during World War II. The tour never happened, but before the band broke up a film --called THE VICTORY PARADE OF SPOTLIGHT BANDS -- was made of (in Johnny's words) “the show." At least one performance from this film is known to me, and I have pulled a small set of pictures of the band from this film. Coverage is not great, and the guys are somewhat disguised by the costume hats they are wearing. I do see Eddie Condon on rhythm guitar, and Flip Phillips is one of the saxophonists. From what Johnny said, both in an interview and in his book, Dale Pearce and Dick Taylor should be in the brass section, but you don't get close enough to really see most of these players clearly. There are five reeds in the band, and I am almost certain that Flip Phillips is to the far right. Hymie Schertzer and Aaron Sachs are supposedly in the section, but I am not sure where. The rhythm section is quite possibly Ralph Burns, Eddie Condon (for certain), probably Clyde Lombardi and Johnny Blowers (again, a certainty).

Please let me know what your readers think."

The hats, oh, those hats. Eddie Condon looks as if he is beginning a long prison term.

I would love to hear the soundtrack.

I'd also like to know whatever possessed the film director to dress everyone up--although it is indeed possible that they wore period clothing as part of their “show."

A postscript. Eddie Condon loathed big bands and was not shy about saying so. Phyllis Smith Condon, his wife, was a copywriter for the D'Arcy agency--and she was in charge of the Coca-Cola account. During the war, she, Eddie, and Ernie Anderson tried to market jazz to the servicemen and women under the beverage's sponsorship--one project that never quite materialized resulted in a late-1942 recoding session for Condonites and famous friends. But Eddie still looks miserable under his hat.

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This story appears courtesy of Jazz Lives by Michael Steinman.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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