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Red Norvo

Red Norvo was an unusual star during the swing era, playing jazz xylophone. After he switched to vibes in 1943, Norvo had a quieter yet no-less fluent style than Lionel Hampton. Although no match for Hampton popularity-wise, Norvo and his wife, singer Mildred Bailey, did become known as "Mr. and Mrs. Swing."

Red Norvo had a long and interesting career. He started on marimba when he was 14 and soon switched to xylophone. Active in vaudeville in the late '20s as a tap dancer, Norvo joined Paul Whiteman's orchestra in the early '30s (meeting and marrying Mildred Bailey). He recorded some extraordinary sides in the early to mid-'30s that showed off his virtuosity and imagination; two numbers (the atmospheric "Dance of the Octopus" and "In a Mist") had Benny Goodman playing bass clarinet, remarkably. Norvo led his own band during 1936-1944 which, with its Eddie Sauter arrangements (particularly in the early days), had a unique ensemble sound that made it possible for one to hear the leader's xylophone. In 1944, Norvo (who by then had switched permanently to vibes) broke up his band and joined Benny Goodman's Sextet. Through recordings and appearances, he showed that his style was quite adaptable and open to bop. Norvo welcomed Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to a 1945 record date, was part of Woody Herman's riotous first Herd in 1946, and recorded with Stan Hasselgard in 1948. At the beginning of the 1950s, Norvo put together an unusual trio with guitarist Tal Farlow (later Jimmy Raney) and bassist Charles Mingus (later Red Mitchell). The light yet often speedy unisons and telepathic interplay by the musicians was quite memorable. Norvo led larger groups later in the decade, had reunions with Benny Goodman, and made many fine recordings. The 1960s found Red Norvo adopting a lower profile after he had a serious ear operation in 1961. He worked with the Newport All-Stars later in the decade, and from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s was once again quite active, making several excellent recordings. However, his hearing eventually worsened and a serious stroke put Red Norvo out of action altogether after 55 years of music. He died on April 6, 1999, at the age of 91. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Chronological Classics: Red Norvo 1950 - 1951

2. Cheek To Cheek

3. Night And Day

4. Time And Tide

5. September Song

6. Move

9. I'll Remember April

11. Little White Lies

14. If I Had You

15. This Can't Be Love

16. Godchild

17. I'm Yours

18. Prelude To A Kiss

19. Mood Indigo

20. 'Deed I Do

x

Track List: The Chronological: 1944-1945

1. The Man I Love

2. Seven Come Eleven

3. Which Switch Witch

4. The Bass On The Barroom Floor

5. Russian Lullaby

9. Hallelujah

10. Get Happy

11. Slam Slam Blues

12. Congo Blues

16. The Man I Love

x

Track List: Red Norvo 1939-1943

1. You're So Desirable

2. There'll Never Be Another You

3. I Can Read Between The Lines

4. Blue Evening

5. Yours For A Song

6. Three Little Fishes

7. Some Like It Hot

8. In The Middle Of A Dream

9. My Love For You

10. Have Mercy

11. Jersey Bounce

12. Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In A Hurry

13. I'll Be Around

14. My Little Cousin

15. Something For The Boys

16. Abraham

17. Embraceable You

18. 1-2-3-4 Jump

19. Seven Come Eleven

20. In A Mellotone

21. Flyin' Home

x

Track List: The Modern Red Norvo

Disc 1

1. Congo Blues (Original)

2. CongoBlues (Alternate)

3. Halleluja (Original)

4. Halleluja (Alternate)

5. Slam Slam Blues (Original)

6. Slam Slam Blues (Alternate)

7. Get Happy (Original)

8. Get Happy (Alternate)

9. Swedish Pastry (Take 2)

10. Swedish Pastry (Take 1)

11. Cheek To Cheek

12. Cheek To Cheek (Alternate)

13. Cheek To Cheek (Take 5)

14. Night And Day (Original)

15. Night And Day (Alternate)

16. Time And Tide

17. Prelude To A Kiss

18. 'Deed I Do

19. Mood Indigo

20. Mood Indigo (Alternate)

Disc 2

1. September Song (Take 2)

2. Move (Take 3)

3. I've Got You Under My Skin (Take 4)

4. I'll Remember April (Take 2)

5. I'll Remember April (Take 3)

6. I Get A Kick Out Of You (Take 5)

7. I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me (Take 5)

8. Little White Lies (Take 1)

9. Have You Met Miss Jones (Take 6)

10. Zing! Went the Strings Of My Heart (Take 3)

11. If I Had You (Take 4)

12. If I Had You (Take 2)

13. This Can't Be Love (Original)

14. This Can't Be Love (Take 1)

15. This Can't Be Love (Take 2)

16. Godchild (Take 5)

17. Godchild (Take 1)

18. Godchild (Take 2)

19. Godchild (Take 3)

20. I'm Yours (Take 3, With Ending Of Take 4)

21. I'm Yours (Take 2)

x

Track List: Dance Of The Octopus

1. Knockin On Wood

2. Hole In The Wall

3. In A Mist

4. Dance Of The Octopus

5. Old Fashioned Love

6. I Surrender, Dear

7. Tomboy

8. The Night Is Blue

9. Honeysuckle Rose

10. With All My Heart And Soul

11. Bughouse

12. Blues In E Flat

13. Gramercy Square

14. Polly Wolly Doodle

15. Decca Stomp

16. The Music Goes 'Round And Round

17. The Broken Record

18. The Wedding Of Jack And Jill

19. You Started Me Dreaming

20. Misty Islands Of The Highlands

21. What's The Name Of That Song

22. Let Yourself Go

23. Life Begins When You're In Love

24. If You Love Me

25. I Got Rhythm

26. Oh, Lady Be Good

x

Track List: Red And Mildred

1. Uptown Conversations

2. Step Aside, Jump Jump's Here

3. Just You, Just Me

4. Put Your Heart In A Song

5. Lullaby In Rhythm

6. I'd Climb The Highest Mountain

7. A Cigarette And A Silhouette

8. Drop Me Off In Harlem

9. Tea Time

10. The Sunny Side Of Things

11. Jeanine, I Dream Of Lilac Time

12. Stop Beatin' 'Round The Mulberry Bush

13. I May Be Wrong

14. Blue Skies

15. A-Tisket A-Tasket

16. Rug Cutter's Swing

Comments

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Vavoom
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Always liked listening to Red Norvo...grea t musician.
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There was a softness and subtly in Red's work that no one else could quite match. The sides with his then wife Mildred Bailey from the mid and later '30;s are some of the best vintage jazz ever.
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toooooo good!
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Like really kool!
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josephfoltz1 2 3 4 0
Man oh man, this is so kool.
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I saw a vibe workshop mid-60's at Newport incl Norvo, Bobby Hutcherson, I think Milt Jackson, maybe Cal Tjader, too and Gary Burton. Dave Pike probably, cause Herbie Mann was there with him and Chick Corea, whom i got to meet. Can't recall all. There were 5 or 6 side by side across the Festival stage in front of a good rhythm section on the Saturday afternoon. Spectacular.
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stosstheboss
This is boss.
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alissajoycru z
Awww! Schwinnnggg it Baby! Wunderbar!
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He was a very talented man.
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Wonderful!
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I've always enjoyed Red. His work with Sinatra was always swingin' stuff.
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It's a shame it's taken me 35 years before hearing about Red Norvo. I can hear a lot of personality in his music. Great music here.
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I had the opportunity to meet and socialize with Red Norvo in the 80s while living in New York. I met him through my husband, also a vibraphonist . We'd go hear him play, and have him over for dinner, climbing stairs to our 4th floor walkup. His youthful spirit, happy demeanor and sense of humor made me think he was still in his 30s. I was saddened when he died in the late 90s. It's unfortunate that many people only know of Lionel Hampton, & never know Red Norvo and his contribution to jazz.

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