BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Air Mail Special”


I promised those of you who read my Monday post that there was one more song with the word “air” in the title, and here it is.

“Air Mail Special,” also known as “Airmail Special,” was written by clarinetist and Big Band leader Benny Goodman, guitarist Charlie Christian, and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Mundy in 1941. Here it is as played by Charlie Christian and (I believe) the Benny Goodman Sextet. This isn’t part of the battle, so as much as you’d like to, please don’t vote for it.

It’s a jazz standard and has been covered by a number of artists, ranging from soloists to big bands, including the two versions I’ve chosen for this battle. Here are the contenders.

CONTESTANT #1: Caterina Valente Caterina is an Italian singer whose scat capabilities rival those of Ella Fitzgerald. Here she is live, with Horst Jankowski (“A Walk In The Black Forest”) as her musical director.

Contestant #2: Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band One of the most versatile bands around was the Tonight Show Band, also known as the NBC Orchestra, during the time Johnny Carson was the host and Doc Severinsen was the musical director. Occasionally, Johnny would turn the spotlight on them, and they would put on a real show. They recorded at least two albums of some of the best Big Band music around.

Now, it’s time to vote: whose version of “Air Mail Special” did you prefer, Caterina Valente’s or the Tonight Show Band’s? Listen to both, decide whose you like better, and cast your balot by leaving a comment below with your choice and anything else you want to say about it. Then, how about visiting the blogs below and seeing if they’re doing a Battle of the Bands today as well?

Jingle Jangle Jungle

Mike’s Ramblings

Curious as a Cathy

Tossing It Out


J. A. Scott



Angels Bark

Cherdo on the Flipside


* Stephen has the current list of participants on his site

I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday, March 21, so get your vote to me by then.

The lines are now open. Best of luck to Caterina and Doc and the band!