Tag Archives: American popular song

BERLIN STORIES: EDDIE ERICKSON, SUE KRONINGER, WESTY WESTENHOFER, CHRIS CALABRESE, YVE EVANS, BILL DENDLE at MONTEREY (March 7, 2014)

Where would we be without the inexhaustible creativity of Irving Berlin? I don’t know the answer to that rhetorical question and am thankful I don’t have to envision a world without his melodies and plain-spoken but always right words. One of the sweet surprises of JazzAge Monterey’s March 2014 Jazz Bash by the Bay was their Singers’ Showcase devoted to the music of Mr. Berlin. Here are three outstanding performances, featuring commentary / piano by Yve Evans, also Chris Calabrese, piano; Westy Westenhofer, tuba, vocal; Eddie Erickson, banjo, vocal; Gary Ryan, banjo; Sue Kroninger, washboard, vocal. Thanks to Israel Baline for the inspiration!

THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS (Sue — balancing comedy and seriousness wonderfully):

MARIE (Westy — with glorious hand gestures for free):

YOU’RE JUST IN LOVE (Eddie and Sue, having a fine time):

May your happiness increase!

RESTORING THE REPERTOIRE

In the old days — define them as you will — it seemed as if everyone knew, and played, a thousand songs.  Some of that knowlesge had to do with the demands of the marketplace: members of Goodman’s or Ellington’s or Basie’s bands had to learn and play new pop hits (CALL OF THE CANYON, I KEEP REMEMBERING, POP-CORN MAN) — some ephemeral, some of them lasting.

Today it seems as if jazz musicians and singers still have a common language, but their shared vocabulary continues to shrink.  Often I hear a musician suggest a song that would have been well-known a few decades back — STAIRWAY TO THE STARS — and what would have been a delicious performance never happens because the other members of the group, ad-hoc or otherwise, don’t know the song.

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Enough already with SOME OF THESE DAYS and ST. LOUIS BLUES; give SATIN DOLL and EVERYDAY I HAVE THE BLUES a rest; could we move beyond EXACTLY LIKE YOU and WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO? WHEN YOU’RE SMILING and PENNIES FROM HEAVEN are wonderful, memorable pieces of music . . . but they aren’t the only ones.

I am very fond of songs — all kinds of them, but particularly the pop songs of the period between the two World Wars — and their passing into obscurity makes me glum.

I am not proposing that we celebrate every pop hit or every forgettable song made memorable by a brilliant performance: my list below lacks I MISS MY SWISS and TAKE ME BACK TO MY BOOTS AND SADDLE.

But there are many many songs that never get performed — and they have lovely melodies and fitting, often deep lyrics — and are in danger of being entirely forgotten.

So what follows is purely an exercise in hopeful self-indulgence: a list of songs I think might make both listeners and musicians happy if they were to be learned and performed.  JAZZ LIVES readers are free to suggest additions to this list, and encouraged to do so.  I have put these song titles in alphabetical order to avoid any suggestion of ranking by merit.

And I mean no offense to some of my friends who perform a few of the songs on this list — I am not suggesting that their performances are obscure or forgettable.  Quite the reverse: I dream of a world where everyone knows the lyrics and melody and chord changes to these beautiful songs.  If my list seems heavily based in 1929-35 romanticism, it doesn’t bother me.

ABOUT A QUARTER TO NINE

ACCENT ON YOUTH

AFTER AWHILE

A HANDFUL OF STARS

ALL MY LIFE

APRIL IN MY HEART

BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART

BEAUTIFUL LOVE

BLACK BUTTERFLY

BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH

BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS

BYE BYE BABY

BY THE FIRESIDE

CHARMAINE

CHASING SHADOWS

CHLOE

CONCENTRATIN’ (On You)

A COTTAGE FOR SALE

DEEP NIGHT

DEEP PURPLE

DIANE

DID YOU MEAN IT?

DON’T BE THAT WAY

DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM

EVENIN’

EV’RY NOW AND THEN

EV’RY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE

FIT AS A FIDDLE

FORTY-SECOND STREET

FOR ALL WE KNOW

GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY

GOT A DATE WITH AN ANGEL

GUILTY

HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN SO SOON?

HE’S THE LAST WORD

HERE IN MY ARMS

HOME

HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT

HOW ABOUT ME?

HOW ABOUT YOU

HUSTLIN’ AND BUSTLIN’ FOR BABY

I APOLOGIZE

I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?

I CAN’T GET STARTED

I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN

I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TIME IT WAS

IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS

IF I HAD MY WAY

IF IT AIN’T LOVE

I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN

I JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT, BABY

I’LL CLOSE MY EYES

I’LL FOLLOW YOU

I’LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN

I’LL STRING ALONG WITH YOU

I’M A DREAMER (Aren’t We All?)

I MARRIED AN ANGEL

I’M FALLING IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE

IMAGINATION

I’M IN THE MARKET FOR YOU

I’M LIVIN’ IN A GREAT BIG WAY

I’M NOBODY’S BABY

I’M OLD-FASHIONED

I’M THROUGH WITH LOVE

INDIAN LOVE CALL

I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU

I SEE YOUR FACE BEFORE ME

IT MUST BE TRUE

IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND

JEANNINE (I Dream of Lilac Time)

JUST FRIENDS

JUST ONE MORE CHANCE

LET’S PUT OUT THE LIGHTS (And Go To Sleep)

LITTLE MAN, YOU’VE HAD A BUSY DAY

LOUISE

LOVE DROPPED IN FOR TEA

LOVE IN BLOOM

LOVE LETTERS

LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND

LOVE LOCKED OUT

LOVE ME TONIGHT

LOVE NEST

LULLABY OF BROADWAY

LULLABY OF THE LEAVES

MAKE BELIEVE

MAYBE YOU’LL BE THERE

ME AND THE MOON

MISS ANNABELLE LEE

MOMENTS LIKE THIS

MOONBURN

MOON SONG

MY BUDDY

MY OLD FLAME

NEVERTHELESS

NIGHT OWL

ONCE IN A WHILE (the ballad)

PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY

PENTHOUSE SERENADE

PEOPLE WILL SAY WE’RE IN LOVE

PLEASE

PLEASE BE KIND

POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS

PRINCE OF WAILS

PRISONER OF LOVE

P.S., I LOVE YOU

RAMONA

READY FOR THE RIVER

REMEMBER

REMEMBER ME?

RESTLESS

‘ROUND MY OLD DESERTED FARM

ROSALIE

SAY IT ISN’T SO

SAY IT WITH A KISS

SERENADE IN BLUE

SHOE SHINE BOY

SLEEPY HEAD

SLEEPY TIME GAL

SMILES

SOFT LIGHTS AND SWEET MUSIC

SOLITUDE

SWEET AS A SONG

SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE

THANKS FOR THE MEMORY

THAT OLD FEELING

THE BATHTUB RAN OVER AGAIN

THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG

THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION

THE YOU AND ME THAT USED TO BE

THEN I’LL BE TIRED OF YOU

THERE’S A CABIN IN THE PINES

THIS HEART OF MINE

TIME ON MY HANDS (with verse)

TRUE CONFESSION

UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE

WAIT TILL YOU SEE HER

WALKIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME

WAS I TO BLAME (For Falling in Love With You)?

WAS THAT THE HUMAN THING TO DO?

WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE

WHEN DAY IS DONE

WHEN DID YOU LEAVE HEAVEN?

WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR

WHERE ARE YOU?

WHERE OR WHEN

WHERE THE BLUE OF THE NIGHT MEETS THE GOLD OF THE DAY

WILLOW TREE

WISHING WILL MAKE IT SO

WITH A SMILE AND A SONG

WITH EVERY BREATH I TAKE

WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A WALK?

YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES

YOUNG AND HEALTHY

YOU’RE BLASE

YOU’RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME

YOU’RE LAUGHING AT ME

YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE

YOU ARE MY LUCKY STAR

YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME

YOU STARTED SOMETHING

YOU WENT TO MY HEAD

ZING! WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART

Consider and remember the riches that are just waiting to be sung, played, hummed . . . .  And I know as soon as I press “Publish,” I will think of twenty more songs that I should have included . . . in fact, I COULD WRITE A BOOK.

May your happiness increase!

MOMENTS LIKE THIS: TAMAR KORN and the EARREGULARS (Nov. 14, 2010)

In his book ANSWERED PRAYERS, Truman Capote planned to include a story, “And Audrey Wilder Sang,” referring to the lovely wife of director Billy Wilder.  If she sang, you knew it had been a memorable party. 

Capote never met Tamar Korn, that brave improviser, but that’s his great loss. 

When she’s an unexpected guest, rare music results — as it did at the end of the night last Sunday, November 14, 2010, at The Ear Inn. 

I’ve already delighted in the performances of Pete Martinez, Dan Block, Matt Munisteri, Jon Burr, and John Bucher.  (But why not another few lines in praise of Dan’s deep repertoire of riffs and timbres, of Pete’s passionate intensity, Matt’s rocking work — singing along with his solo on the second title — and Jon’s woody propulsion.  And how they fit together here!) 

Tamar brought her own special kind of drama (without artifice), deep emotion, and vocal beauty to two songs.  And the audience at The Ear paid her the compliment of listening closely.  Perhaps they, too, were swept away by the vision of sweet pastoral she offered on UP A LAZY RIVER:

Then Tamar suggested THE SONG IS ENDED — thinking no doubt of her heroes the Mills Brothers and Louis Armstrong who had recorded this Irving Berlin number at a trotting tempo nearly seventy-five years ago.  Paradoxically, when Tamar told us the song was ended, it only made us want to hear her sing more:

Thank you, Tamar.  Thank you, gentlemen — for moments like this, so rare in anyone’s listening experience, perhaps in anyone’s life.

THANKS, JONATHAN SCHWARTZ (and FRANK SINATRA, too)

jonathan-schwartz-wnyc1Jonathan Schwartz has been broadcasting on WNYC-FM (New York City’s NPR station) for a long time now, offering remarkable music and deeply informed commentary.    Every Saturday and Sunday from 12-4, Jonathan plays a large variety of moving and intriguing music — Fred Astaire, Ruby Braff, Becky Kilgore, Tony Bennett and many others.   

Jonathan’s program also appears on Sirius satellite radio and his WNYC shows can be heard online, but I am listening live as I write this. 

Unlike other radio personalities who delve deeply into American popular song and jazz, Jonathan is more interested in presenting the music than a barrage of archival data.  And his program isn’t a museum, for he plays recordings by young performers who keep traditions vigorous. 

When I first heard his WNYC program, years ago, my musical range was deep but narrow.  I knew as much as I could about 1938 Billie Holiday, about the partnership of Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden, about the sounds of Jo Jones and George Wettling.  I loved Bing Crosby.  But I was an impatient listener, fidgeting until Jonathan played a song or a musician of whom I approved. 

sinatraAnd I didn’t understand Jonathan’s deep fascination with Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra was everywhere in my childhood and adolescence, and he seemed one-dimensional, someone trying to be hip for the young’uns and a sad tough guy for the people who watched the Ed Sullivan Show.  Louis was always Louis, no matter what he sang or played.  Sinatra seemed so busy selling repackaged versions of himself.  When “Ol’ Blue Eyes” came back, it meant nothing to me — had he ever been away?  The performances I saw on television seemed consciously mannered: “Look how deeply I feel,” he seemed to be saying, which I did not find convincing.   

But I am writing this to say that even our most cherished artistic convictions need to be reinspected now and again, to see if they are valid.  Or if they ever were.  The Beloved listens to Jonathan’s WNYC program faithfully, so I have heard him more often and more regularly than ever before.

More than a year ago, Jonathan played a Sinatra recording I had never heard, from the Capitol sessions with the Hollywood String Quartet, which appered on vinyl and CD as CLOSE TO YOU.  The song was a collaboration of Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer, “P.S., I Love You.”  I had heard Billie Holiday’s sweet-sour Verve version — but Sinatra’s singing, tender, unaffected, wistful — brought tears to my eyes.  The next day, I bought the CD and still think of it as supremely romantic music, superbly realized.  That singer in the Capitol studio didn’t care whether he struck the best I-don’t-care pose for the photographers.  He was inside the music, selling nothing but conveying everything. 

I was suspicious.  I looked into the mirror while shaving.  Was I turning into a Sinatra-phile, one of those people who reveled in every note their hero had sung?  I already had enough musical obsessions, thank you.  So I kept close watch on myself and played CLOSE TO YOU in the car, thinking that it was one atypical occasion when Sinatra had allowed himself to merge with the music. 

But it happened again when Jonathan played another Capitol Sinatra, the arrangement by Gordon Jenkins.  Perhaps it was “Where Are You?”  And, against my more suspicious self, I was staggered by the depth of feeling in that record.  I bought it and played it.  And then there was the slightly angry “Oh, You Crazy Moon,” from THE MOONLIGHT SINATRA.  And the tragically world-weary Sinatra of “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.”

So this is to say, “Thank you!” to Jonathan Schwartz for enriching my musical and emotional experience.  I now think it is possible to play a great Sinatra recording alongside one of the Billie Holiday Verves and to hear that both singers are — in their own way — considering the mysteries of the human heart. 

Some readers might be thinking, “Isn’t this a jazz blog?  Sinatra wasn’t a jazz singer!”  Those categories don’t matter when the art moves us.  As he was in mourning for his life, drinking cognac, Lester Young  played those mournful Sinatra records over and over.  “Frankie-boy,” Pres called him.  If Sinatra moved Lester Young, who knew everything about elation and despair, that’s good enough for me.  I am sorry that it took me this long to find the inward-looking Sinatra, but I am deeply indebted to Jonathan Schwartz for making it happen.