Talent runs in the family, they say. And in this case, they’re right. Brian Nalepka, string bassist, tubaist, accordionist, singer, and sage jester, is someone I admire: when he’s on the scene, I know the beat will be there too, and it will be swinging. His wife, Mary Shaughnessy, doesn’t sing; nor, as far as I know, does daughter Ella. But Nora Nalepka does, and she’s very good at it. This isn’t a post about swing nepotism, but one about music.
On the most recent appearance of Terry Waldo’s Gotham City Band at Fat Cat (75 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, New York City) — Sunday, December 18, 2016 — I was there to document and enjoy not one, but two Nalepka musical offerings.
Here’s Brian — “asking the musical question” HOW YA GONNA KEEP ‘EM DOWN ON THE FARM?, a Walter Donaldson melody and one of the witty and relevant hits of 1919, after the Great War had ended. His colleagues are Terry Waldo, piano; John Gill, banjo; Jay Lepley, drums; Jon-Erik Kellso, cornet (for the occasion); Jim Fryer, trombone; Evan Arntzen, reeds. If you haven’t noticed it this far, Brian is not only a great rhythm player and soloist, but he is that most rare thing, a swinging entertainer.
Nora — more modern, a child of the late twentieth century — picked a more “contemporary” song . . . from 1934: the Nacio Herb Brown – Arthur Freed ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU, which many of us know from its delightful part in the 1952 film SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.
and, for a reason, here is the first page of that folio:
Although this sweet song is a love ballad, most bands and singers take it at a brisk tempo, which flattens its yearning appeal. Note “Slowly (with expression),” which is the way Nora sings it.
She knows how to convey feeling; she improvises gently; she swings. Not surprising, perhaps, but immensely pleasing.
This is my second Nora-sighting (I wish it would happen bi-annually at the very least); here is my first, eleven months ago, her sweet rendition of I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME.
And — a secret pleasure — the phrase that Terry improvises on in his solo is Jess Stacy’s introduction to the issued take of DIANE (Commodore, 1938) featuring Jack Teagarden. Years of obsessive listening pay off.
Dear Ms. Nalepka, if you plan to make a CD — call it, perhaps, NORA NALEPKA SINGS ANCIENT SONGS OF LOVE — let me know and I’ll contribute to the crowdfunding. And Father Brian, keep on doin’ what you’re doin’!
May your happiness increase!