Tommy Dorsey's orchestra is considered by critics as the greatest all-around dance band in history and the best ballad outfit of the swing era. His warm, smooth trombone playing earned him the nickname ''Sentimental Gentlemen of Swing.'' Both sides of the famed bandleader are featured on The Seventeen Number Ones, a collection of his biggest hits on the RCA label from 1935 to 1942.
Dorsey demanded excellence from his musicians and singers. He assembled a crew of the highest talent, and he knew how to feature them. One of the highlights of Tommy Dorsey's orchestra was his cast of vocalists. Jack Leonard was Dorsey's first star singer. Though not well remembered today, during his time Leonard rivaled Bing Crosby as the top male singer among teenagers. He shines on Irving Berlin's ''Marie,'' probably the most famous of Tommy Dorsey singles. The catchy tune, with its gimmicky arrangement, was so often requested at shows that Dorsey did similar arrangements for other numbers just because he was tired of playing it. Leonard also stands out on other Dorsey hits as well, like ''All the Things You Are'' and ''Indian Summer.''
''The Music Goes 'Round and Round'' and ''The Big Apple'' feature Dorsey's Dixieland outfit, the Clambake Seven, and Edythe Wright, Dorsey's female vocalist in the early years of the orchestra. Wright did best on swinging numbers, like ''Music, Maestro, Please'' and ''The Dipsy Doodle,'' but could also tackle softer tunes, like ''On Treasure Island,'' with equal skill. Best remembered though are the Dorsey vocalists of the early 1940s, Jo Stafford and Frank Sinatra. Jo began her career as a member of the vocal group the Pied Pipers. Here they can be heard backing Sinatra on three numbers. Especially noteworthy is their legendary version of ''I'll Never Smile Again,'' which remained at the number one spot for 12 weeks.
Of course, Dorsey's vocalists weren't his only strong point. The instrumental ''Satan Takes a Holiday'' is a classic swing number, and you can still get lost in the warmth of the instrumental openings and interludes of Dorsey's softer tunes. This is an excellent album for those wishing to jumpstart their interest in Tommy Dorsey and a must for Dorsey collectors, though the liner notes leave a little to be desired.