Georgie Auld’s saxophone shows up on some of the greatest
sides of the Big Band Era. Be it small group settings or in the backdrop of a
big band, Auld could adapt his expressive style to a wide variety of moods and
Georgie switched from alto to tenor in 1935 after hearing a
Coleman Hawkins recording. He became a member of Bunny Berigan's orchestra in
1937 and remained with Berigan until early December of 1938. Later that same
month Auld joined Artie Shaw's orchestra and began a grueling schedule of record
dates and engagements at the most popular hotels and ballrooms in the country.
This band was at the top of its game, broadcasting often from the Cafe' Rouge of
the Hotel Pennsylvania and The Blue Room of the Hotel Lincoln in New York as
well as the Summer Terrace Room of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston. It was also
heard regularly on the Old Gold "Melody And Madness" radio show. Auld eventually
led the band for nearly three months after the moody Artie Shaw took one of
his sojourns away from the music business. In January of 1940 the song Juke
Box Jump was recorded by the former Artie Shaw band now under the leadership of Auld. A great uptempo jam and a four star flag waver, one is left to wonder what other gems this group could have turned out had Georgie Auld the wherewithall to front a big band continuously.
Georgie Auld was with Jan Savitt briefly in 1940. What
grabbed the attention of jazz buffs that same year was his participation on several
sessions with a cast of all-stars who backed Billie Holiday in September and
October. In November he joined Benny Goodman's aggregation remaining
with him for about a year. Goodman immediately used Auld as part of the Benny
Goodman Sextet as on November 7th the group waxed the tune
Wholly Cats. Along with Charlie
Christian, Cootie Williams, and on occasion Count Basie on piano, this group
created some of the most brilliant and exciting small group jazz sides to come
out of the big band era. After departing Goodman, Auld joined yet another band led
by Artie Shaw from 1941 to 1942. After a stint in the Army in '43, he
formed his own big band leading it from 1944-6.
Georgie Auld Orchestra recorded some interesting sides that at
times used elements of bebop but for the most part still retained a melodic
flowing rhythm. In 1946 doctors discovered that Auld had tuberculosis. He was
only semi active for a few years, until his health recovered, but in 1948 formed
a 10-piece band, his style having changed to that of the more modern bebop style
players. Later that year, he disbanded and opened his own club in New York
called The Troubadour on 52nd Street and appeared in the Broadway show The Rat
Race. In 1950 he briefly worked with Count Basie's sextet.
In 1951 Auld moved back to California because of health issues
and while living in Hollywood in 1954 opened another night club called the Melody
Room. In 1955 and '56 he once again had his own big band, this a 20-piece group
that featured Jimmie Lunceford style arrangements written by Billy May. In 1958 he
returned to New York City to do studio work and record, making numerous
appearances on Art Ford’s TV “Jazz Party”.
Several of the Auld releases of the late 1950s and early 1960s
are noteworthy, especially the 1959 Georgie Auld Septet release Good Enough To
Keep. On this album Auld revisited, with his own group, twelve recordings he
previously cut with the Goodman Sextet. A Smooth One, Airmail Special and Rose
Room are all great performances with Larry Bunker handling vibes; midway through
Rose Room the band subtly breaks into Ellington's In A Mellotone without missing
a lick on this medium tempo groover.
Georgie Auld has
had releases under his own name on Emarcy, Savoy, Coral, Brunswick, Capitol,
Alladin, Roost and Grammy Award. He can be heard on releases with Goodman,
Shaw, Basie, Billie Holiday, Barney Kessel, Dinah Washington, Anita O' Day,
Maynard Ferguson, and Buddy DeFranco.
A new double CD
release from Fresh Sound Records in Spain features four Auld Septet and Quintet
albums from the late 50s and early 60s. This CD, called Airmail Special, is highly recommended listening for
those interested in this very underrated saxophone giant's later career.