As if having a hyphenated name wasn’t unusual enough, a 1950s swing band known as the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra had a couple of other odd attributes. For one thing, the group reached its peak during the twilight of the big band era. It was also unusual for having dual bandleaders, but the real oddity was how they turned the orchestra into a unique musical experiment.
Brooklyn-born Eddie Sauter and New Jersey native Bill Finegan were both consummate professionals, with backgrounds that included classical musical educations and decades of service in some of the biggest of the big bands. Both were capable and versatile instrumentalists but they had become better known as two of the best arrangers around, and as the swing era wound down they decided they were ready to try something new.
The duo had all kinds of new ideas they were eager to try, such as coming up with cutting-edge music and utilizing unusual instrumentation (including everything from glockenspiel to kazoo) while not worrying too much about the music’s popular appeal. Their debut record — “Doodletown Fifers” — set the tone, and they were soon spinning out a lot of platters that received a decidedly mixed reception. While many fans enjoyed the new sound, others were confused and more than a little put off.
Originally a studio band but eventually becoming a touring group too (although the leaders were a little charisma-challenged), the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra sold a lot of records during the 1950s, and even if most them didn’t make the upper ranges of the record charts the band did have some success with songs like “Nina Never Knew” and “The Moon Is Blue.” But things wound down later in the decade and the band’s founders decided to go on to other things. Although they found success with other groups and did work together again from time to time, the original Sauter-Finegan Orchestra was history.
Sauter-Finegan Orchestra – “Doodletown Fifers”
In a recent post I mentioned that a trumpet solo in a classic movie had been dubbed by Manny Klein, a talented but relatively unknown trumpeter who deserves a little more attention. He had a fascinating and varied career, one that included not only playing conventionally, but also mastering something you seldom hear about — a piccolo trumpet, the smallest instrument in the trumpet family.
Klein was a New Yorker who first began finding some career success during the early jazz age while working for bandleader Paul Whiteman. It was the beginning of two decades of solid work with some of the stars of the big band era, including Benny Goodman and the Dorsey Brothers. During this period Klein also relocated to California, where he worked with Artie Shaw, led his own outfit for a while (video below) and began getting some movie soundtrack work too.
By the post-war years he had become well-known among his peers as a master of the trumpet in every variety and in every kind of music. He was a mainstay of the West Coast jazz movement, could sit in for classical concerts, and continued to find a lot of work in movie music. One of his most memorable appearances was his piccolo trumpet solo on Hugo Montenegro’s “Theme From The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.”
Manny Klein was a busy musician for most of the rest of his life, backing up stars like Dean Martin in the recording studio and continuing to play in a variety of venues. He finally slowed down in his later years, and died at age 85 in 1994.
Hugo Montenegro w/ Manny Klein – “Theme From Good, Bad & Ugly”
His name sounds at least a little familiar to those of us who have been around a while, and it’s a pretty good bet that you’ve heard a lot of his music through the years, but Ralph Marterie is not someone who comes to mind when you think of cutting-edge orchestral jazz. Nevertheless, he sold a lot of records as a bandleader because he was always focused on something that many of his contemporaries forgot — he knew what people liked.
Marterie was born in Italy and was still a boy when he came to Chicago with his parents in the 1920s, but by the time he was a teenager he was beginning to break into the local music scene. He played trumpet in a number of different bands over the next decade or so, including touring outfits and radio orchestras, and also soaked up a lot of knowledge by working with guys like Percy Faith and André Kostelanetz.
Marterie’s first job as a bandleader came during his World War II service, when he was able to latch on to a job leading a U.S. Navy band. The experience came in handy in the years following the war because he began finding a lot of success leading studio bands behind big-name singers like Vic Damone. As the 1950s approached, Marterie began breaking out as a recording star himself, leading his own orchestra. Over the next few years he’d spin out a series of hits that included best-sellers like “Skokiaan,” “Caravan,” “Blue Mirage,” and many others.
As the years passed, Marterie spent more and more time leading a touring band, one that was always a crowd-pleaser wherever it appeared. Again, he knew what people liked, and his mix of past hits along with orchestral versions of modern songs proved very popular. He was on tour with his band when he died (at age 63) in 1978.
Ralph Marterie & Orchestra – “Blue Mirage”