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Liner Notes

From "Toots Mondello: Complete Orchestra & Best Sideman Recordings" (1936-1940)
Vintage Music Productions 0111 (CD)

Toots Mondello was only 14, when he began his professional career as a member of Lew Conrad's band. That was in late 1925 or early 1926. By 1927, he was a member of the great territory band led by Mal Hallett, with whom he made his first recordings, in 1929. He stayed with Hallett's band, until he joined Joe Haymes, in 1932. During the next two years, Mondello made numerous recordings with Haymes (1932-1934), as well as Mike Doty (1933), Harry Rosenthal (1934) and Russ Morgan (1934-1935). He, also, played briefly with Roger Wolfe Kahn (1933), Buddy Rogers (1934) and Phil Harris (1934), before joining Benny Goodman, as lead alto, in 1934.

Mondello's work, with the Goodman band, began while the soon-to-be "King of Swing" was still working out his sound and included the famous "Let's Dance" broadcasts, which first brought Benny Goodman to national prominence. Mondello left Goodman, in July 1935, just prior to the tour that took the band to their historic Palomar engagement (Aug 21, 1935). While Mondello had enjoyed playing with the band, Benny Goodman could not pay him enough, at that time, to make up for the steady session work, which he was getting, in New York. By 1939, however, Mondello would be back with Goodman, and for the next 28 years, he and his Strasser Marigaux et Lemaire saxophone would have a recurring presence, in the Goodman band, playing and recording many times, until 1967.

The extent to which Mondello's session work was indeed paying his bills seems apparent by the frequency with which he appeared in the recording studio. After leaving Goodman, Mondello recorded with many well-known bands, including those of Chick Bullock (1935, 1937), Jack Shilkret (1936), Bunny Berigan (1936), Dick McDonough (1936-1937), Miff Mole (1937), Larry Clinton (1937) and Claude Thornhill (1937). Even as Mondello led his own orchestra, from 1937 to 1939, he continued to record frequently with other bands, including Teddy Wilson's (1938), Jack Jenney's (1938), Louis Armstrong's (1938-1939), Ziggy Elman's (1939) and Lionel Hampton's (1939-1940).

In 1943, Mondello was inducted into the army. After the war, he continued his prolific recording career with Pearl Bailey (1946), Billie Holiday (1947), Sarah Vaughan (1949), Billy Butterfield (1950, 1956-58) and Toots Thielemans (1954-55). During this period, he also performed with the television studio bands of Kate Smith, Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle, while recording for a number of Jackie Gleason albums, including "Music To Make You Misty" and "Tenderly."

Many of the selections, on this CD, are alternate takes, which spotlight Mondello solos in place of solos featured on the issued takes. On "There'll Be Some Changes Made" (track 20), for instance, Benny Goodman's clarinet solo is replaced by a Mondello solo, on alto. Another song of particular interest is "In A Sentimental Mood" (track 2) on which Mondello takes solos, on both clarinet and alto sax.

Toots Mondello was born Nuncio F. Mondello, August 14, 1911, in Boston, Massachusetts. He died November 15, 1992, in New York. His brother, Pete Mondello, also played reeds, though better known for his tenor sax than for clarinet or alto. As a fine musician, in his own right, he recorded with Teddy Powell and Will Bradley, before joining Woody Herman, in 1942. His cousin, Vic Mondello played banjo and guitar. He began recording with Mal Hallett, in 1926, and almost certainly had some role in getting Toots a job with the band. The two of them recorded together, during two sessions, in October 1929.

~ Jeff Hopkins and Bill Hebden
September 2002

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