Where shall we start? With the music, of course.
Here is an engaging record with the spontaneous energy and lilt of the best small-band swing, but with neat arranging touches. The players were from the Benny Goodman Orchestra of 1939:
This performance was recorded December 26, 1939 with Ziggy Elman, trumpet; Toots Mondello, Elmani “Noni” Bernardi, alto sax; Jerry Jerome, Arthur Rollini, tenor sax; Johnny Guarnieri, piano; Ben Heller, guitar; Artie Bernstein, string bass; Nick Fatool, drums.
From a splendidly informative profile by Christopher Popa (including an interview of Martin Elman, Ziggy’s son) we learn that Bernardi created the arrangements for the sides Ziggy did for Bluebird Records, Victor’s budget label. The profile — superbly done for Popa’s BIG BAND LIBRARY, can be found here.
This post had its genesis in something not a recording or a performance, but the result of a record session and the hope of making money from a hit. On eBay, I found this two-page contract between music publisher Bregman, Vocco and Conn, and Elman and Bernardi — for this song, then called I’M TOOTIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME. (This title is a play on Maurice Chevalier’s 1931 hit WALKIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME — recorded by, among others, Louis and Nat Cole.)
From this vantage point, the contract seems anything but lavish, although the format is standard and the terms might have seemed a good deal at the time. I don’t think this venture made anyone richer. I’ve never seen a copy of the sheet music? And if one wishes to perceive BVC as exploitative, I am sure there is reason, but they at least published this folio, a good thing:
“Ziggie” is both nearly forgotten and much missed. Like Charlie Shavers, he could forcefully swing any group in many ways (consider his work on sessions with Mildred Bailey and Lionel Hampton). Harry Finkelman (his birth name) could do much more than play the frailich for AND THE ANGELS SING. Those Bluebird records are understated delights (with a beautiful rhythm section for this session).
May your happiness increase!