After being grateful for, if not overly impressed by, the original material on the top side of this single, we’re confronted with another recycled song from yesteryear on this side which has been the usual plan of attack for Freddie Mitchell for far too long.

The sources of these older songs may change from one release to the next but the problems with this approach remain the same starting with the fact you’re relying on the audience’s familiarity with someone else’s music – from another style and era no less – to make a connection with the current listener who have long since moved on from those origins… that is, if the younger rock fan even knew them to begin with.

If they were aware of where this one came from they’d have kept their money. After all, who in their right mind wants to go back to New Jersey anyway?


Now You’ll Hear It Everywhere
The one writer’s name you won’t see on the label for the Freddie Mitchell version of this song is someone we know very well.

Tiny Bradshaw.

Before you get your hopes up, this was Tiny well before he found his muse as a rocker… probably because rock ‘n’ roll was a half decade away from being invented… or discovered… or landing here from another planet.

Yet it does show that there was a connective tissue perhaps from one style to the next even if in this case it’s pretty flimsy. It also shows that while Bradshaw was not yet a successful recording artist in his own right, he was a respected arranger and writer as Jersey Bounce scored big with none other than Benny Goodman, who was just about the most popular swing era bandleader in the entire country in 1942 when the original came out.

The funny thing is (unless you’re Tiny Bradshaw that is) the two listed songwriters on Freddie Mitchell’s rock update of the tune include Robert Wright, a pseudonym for Buddy Feyne who wrote the lyrics which Mitchell’s version – not to mention Goodman’s chart topper from a decade earlier – dispensed with, as both are instrumentals.

Oh well. Maybe Derby Records figured that since Bradshaw was racking up rock hits of his own as we speak, why play up the competition.

A Rhythm That Really Counts
One listen to the Goodman hit tells you everything you need to know about the early 1940’s music scene – prim and proper musicianship with an emphasis on swaying melodies and “excitement” based on massed instruments rather than what any one of them individually is doing.

Yet for its time it’s a solid record for the swing era of World War Two where young men were forced to mature faster than the calendar alluded to because of the circumstances of the times. But now in the midst of the post-war boom where this generation has more freedoms and less responsibilities it doesn’t have the same effect as the current generation is looking for their kicks in much wilder forms of music like rock ‘n’ roll.

Freddie Mitchell should know this since it’s what has allowed his career to take off, but with Jersey Bounce he seems slightly conflicted as he tries to be true to both perspectives and winds up fully satisfying neither of them in the process.

Sure his saxophone plays much more robust lead line than anything found on Goodman’s version, or for that matter the other 1942 hit renditions by Jimmy Dorsey or Shep Fields, but while his tone is first rate, the limitations of the written melody can’t mask the fact that this is a song that belongs in another universe.

A rock instrumental tends to thrive on improvisation. You start with a melodic hook but quickly take off from there, using it merely as a place to return to after you’ve emptied out your arsenal of honks, squeals and snorts. But here the melody never gets too far out of sight and because it’s so cut and dried it limits his ability to cut loose and work this into a frenzy.

The other instruments, including a strong baritone sax to add to the bottom and some heavy-handed drumming, are trying their best to come to his aid and for awhile they may even succeed, but once that primary melody takes over again they’re stuck in second gear with no way to escape.

It’s a good workout for the band maybe, but as a rock record meant to get restless feet moving on the floor, hips twisting and loins grinding it comes up short.

They just didn’t do that sort of thing in 1942… or maybe they did, but they didn’t do it set to music in public like this.

Here Mitchell might encourage a few listeners to loosen some buttons on their clothes, but those clothes stay on and once we realize that nobody’s going to get lucky tonight the potential allure of this record runs its course.


Whenever They Play
Considering the circumstances we could be generous and say that Freddie Mitchell and company do the best they could with ill-chosen material, but part of “best” has to include choosing better material… or at least more appropriate material than this.

Because Hot Ice was the hit, this side doesn’t really matter much I guess. Maybe it even lured in a few curiosity seekers from the previous generation – that over the hill gang in their early thirties who failed to understand what all the fuss was over rock ‘n’ roll.

But even if that were the case they weren’t the audience who’d determine Mitchell’s commercial solvency and Jersey Bounce wasn’t impressive enough to sway enough people even if that had been the intent.

Instead it’s another throwaway… a recognizable throwaway maybe, but one that winds up being quickly forgotten by those who are too busy looking ahead to waste time looking back now.

Heck, even Tiny Bradshaw understood this and focused on stirring things up with music that pointed in a new direction. Too bad record companies couldn’t always follow suit in that regard and so Freddie Mitchell winds up lost somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike having missed his exit.


(Visit the Artist page of Freddie Mitchell for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)