Although technology — whatever that means — keeps telling us we are “all connected,” and it is easier than ever to click a “like,” to instant-message someone, I think many of us feel, in the midst of the crowd, more isolated than ever before.


But community is always possible.  I offer this tender example from — oh, only eighty years ago.

The song is WHERE OR WHEN, by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, from the musical BABES IN ARMS, which premiered in New York April 14, 1937.  I don’t know when Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa first heard the song or had the sheet music (possibly well in advance of the show’s premiere, because who wouldn’t want to know, sing, play a new score by Rodgers and Hart?) — but they performed it at the Madhattan Room of the Hotel Pennsylvania, on October 23, 1937.  (An aside: the first jazz group to record the song was Frank Newton’s small band.)

Here is that Goodman Trio performance:

Now, this is not a generic time-travel post.  As delightful as it would be to hear the music of 1937, I’d also be reading about Herr Hitler in the newspapers; people would die from tuberculosis and polio . . . so I don’t want to leap backwards in time.

But the sound of the “college audience,” to quote my friend David J. Weiner, who wrote the notes to the CD issue of this track, singing along in unified pleasure and knowledge . . . it’s a sweet yet heartbreaking reminder of a time when such things were possible.  Perhaps the fragmentation of the collective audience is an inevitable result of astonishing strides forward in communication, but I’d trade Facebook for a world where people acted in unison, so sweetly.

Here are the lyrics to the chorus, for those motivated to sing along.  I know I was.

It seems we stood and talked like this before.
We looked at each other in the same way then.
But I can’t remember where or when…
The clothes you’re wearing are the clothes you wore
The smile you are smiling you were smiling then,
But I can’t remember where or when…
Some things that happen for the first time
Seem to be happening again.
And though it seems like we have met before,
And laughed before, and loved before,
But who knows where or when…”

What could we do to make such sweet unity the norm in the Here and Now? And I mean more than people knowing the lyrics and being willing to share their sweet impulse.

This post is for Hilary Gardner, who knows and sings.  Both.

May your happiness increase!

6 responses to “BUT WHO KNOWS WHERE OR WHEN?

  1. It’s a magical tune that takes great players beyond their best. I’m thinking of Erroll Garner in his Concert by the Sea, and Ruby Braff with Ellis Larkins. They had something more they wanted to prove with Where or When.

  2. Great clip. Those who enjoy it should catch Dan Levinson, Mark Shane and Kevin Dorn at Shanghai in Madison NJ on Jan 25th. They will be emulating this fine trio. Check Dan’s website:

  3. Reblogged this on Denton Jazz Chronicles and commented:
    Sharing another great Jazz post from Jazz Lives …

  4. James Pansulla

    A full ten years too before Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much historical buzz about the fact that it was jazz musicians who led the way with such a nationally well-known, integrated stage presence. Thank you for your fine blog!

  5. I like the posts you send Michael, and read them eagerly every Monday.
    In many ways, as we get older, we often – like me – get more nostalgic for ‘what used to be’

  6. Thank you for this, dear Michael. It absolutely warmed my heart. What an incredible trio, and the charm of the sing-along is indescribable. xo

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