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Red Norvo

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Red Norvo (March 31, 1908 – April 6, 1999) was an American jazz vibraphonist, known as “Mr. Swing”. He helped to establish the xylophone, marimba and later the vibraphone as viable jazz instruments. His major recordings include “Dance of the Octopus”, “Bughouse”, “Knockin’ on Wood”, “Congo Blues”, and “Hole in the Wall”.

Red Norvo was born Kenneth Norville in Beardstown, Illinois. The story goes that he sold his pet pony to help pay for his first marimba. Norvo’s career began in Chicago with a band called “The Collegians”, in 1925. He played with many other bands, including an all-marimba band on the vaudeville circuit, and the bands of Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, and Woody Herman. Norvo recorded with Mildred Bailey (his wife), Billie Holiday, Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra, among others. Together, Red and Mildred were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Swing.” He also appeared in the film Screaming Mimi (1958), playing himself, and in Ocean’s 11, backing Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?”.
In 1933 he recorded two sessions for Brunswick under his own name. The first, “Knockin’ on Wood” and “Hole in the Wall”, pleased Brunswick’s recording director Jack Kapp and he was booked for another session. This time, Kapp was out of town and Norvo went ahead and recorded two of the earliest, most modern pieces of chamber jazz yet recorded: Bix Beiderbecke’s “In a Mist” and Norvo’s own “Dance of the Octopus”.

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  • mot00rzysta

    listening to "savoy sessions" I can imagine it's Tortoise guys on retirement

    28 Mar 2012 Reply
  • insomniacme

    there's like 6 chronogical classics releases of this guy - must've been busy

    29 Oct 2010 Reply

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