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Nat Shilkret: Up in the Clouds

February 17, 2010

The Victor Salon Orchestra, with Nat Shilkret in the front center, holding his baton. Note the early electrical recording setup: one microphone, at some distance from the band, which gives a more natural sound than the modern practice of sticking a microphone down the throat of every instrument. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra
Up in the Clouds

Recorded in 1927

One of the most talented and versatile studio conductors and arrangers, Nat Shilkret could do just about anything. In the 1920s, he led recording bands for Victor that were better than many of the name bands recording for the same label. Other labels usually disguised their house and pickup bands with plausible pseudonyms, but Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra were proudly credited on their records.

This recording of a Kalmar and Ruby song shows off the band at its best. Shilkret’s arrangements are in perfect taste, but hot as all get out when they need to be. The band plays enthusiastically, and the subtle dynamics indicate that they paid close attention to Shilkret. There would probably have been very little rehearsal time for a recording like this: it’s likely that the musicians had first seen this score only a few minutes before this recording was made.

Nat Shilkret, as he looked at about the time this record was made. What did people do before Wikimedia Commons?

Shilkret had a long and distinguished career in radio and movies. Fans of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers may recognize the name from his scores for Swing Time and Shall We Dance: he was the music director for RKO at the time.

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From → Hot Dance

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