Two adjectives and a conjunction never sounded so good as they did at Luca’s Jazz Corner at 1712 First Avenue in New York City on the night of December 22, 2016. A wonderful band lit up that cozy room on the Upper East Side: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass. (And if you wonder why this video is shot from behind the band, that was the best spot to be in. We video types learn to be adaptable or we go home sulkily without hearing any music.)
The song itself is delightful to play and improvise on, although in my childhood a few bars of it at a rapid tempo became a comic cliche. The composers, Kay Swift (music) and “Paul James” (lyrics) are a remarkable pair — married collaborators, even though Kay had a decade-long affair with another songwriter named George Gershwin. The song was the title number for a hit Broadway show — the first ever composed wholly by a woman. “Paul James” was the pen name of James Paul Warburg, a high-level economist and banker whose main desire in life was to write a hit song.
I think that Ms. Swift and Mr. Warburg would find this version lives up to the song’s title and intent.
A quite irrelevant anecdote here. For the first twenty-plus years of my college teaching career, I labored under the burden of English 101: Freshman Composition. “Burden” because I think writing can be improved, but there has to be something there to begin with, which many of my very delightful students lacked. Relief came in the person(s) of many students who were born elsewhere, labeled “ESL” (English As A Second Language) students. Their idioms were occasionally wobbly, but their insights were much deeper than their American-born peers. From them, I picked up an expression I use now, “In my country.” as in “In my country, we don’t tip the waitstaff in pennies.”
But one of the idioms they found especially hard to digest was “not only _____ but also _______.” So, writing this post, I thought often of the renamed Swift-James song, NOT ONLY FINE BUT ALSO DANDY, but I can see why the shorter title remains. And how true it is of this performance.
May your happiness increase!