The Tonight Show Band With Doc Severinsen (1986)

Doc Severinsen made dozens of albums with various outfits while working for Johnny Carson and leading The Tonight Show Band from 1967 until Carson retired in 1992, but it took the trumpeter until 1986 to take his TV band into the studio to record a very good album, The Tonight Show Band With Doc Severinsen.

Severinsen led a large, high energy group of nineteen musicians if you count the boss who was the primary soloist on nine of the thirteen tracks.

While Severinsen and his men didn't break any new ground, much of the CD is loaded with extremely well-played, modern arrangements of old 30s and 40s big band standards, including instrumental hits of trombonist Tommy Dorsey ("I'm Getting Sentimental Over You"), clarinetist Artie Shaw ("Begin The Beguine"), and vibraphone player Lionel Hampton ("Flying Home"). The set also includes three Benny Goodman classics, "King Porter Stomp," "Don't Be That Way," and "One O'Clock Jump" (composed and originally released by Count Basie and his group).

The rest of the tracks are lesser known, but they're welcome because the swing era chestnuts mentioned above have been rehashed dozens of times over the decades. Most are fast-paced arrangements - like alto sax player John Bainbridge's own "Sax Alley" - making the inclusion of the Gershwin brothers' ballad, "How Long Has This Been Going On" a nice respite from the jazz.

At 1:17, the very short "Johnny's Theme (The Tonight Show Theme)" almost feels like a novelty tune, and listening to it now makes me feel a little nostalgic for the greatest late night talk show host of all time. It's nicely done - as it should be - because the veteran outfit played it almost every night for decades.

Among the band's best known members were Severinsen's number two man and lead saxophonist, Tommy Newsome, and drummer Ed Shaughnessy who drives the band with his outstanding back beat.