Tag Archives: crooning

SWEET LIKE THIS: SPATS LANGHAM, LARS FRANK, MORTEN GUNNAR LARSEN, PHIL RUTHERFORD, JOSH DUFFEE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 7, 2014)

Thomas “Spats” Langham is one of the great romantic singers of our time.  Every year at the Whitley  Bay Classic Jazz Party he moves me to tears.  I do not write those words lightly.  He can perform his deep emotional magic on a love song like GUILTY (you can find it here) but his wizardry is not restricted to amorous crooning.  No, it’s even deeper and less conventional, as he demonstrated on the evening of November 7, 2014, in his performance of a song associated with Cliff Edwards, “Ukulele Ike” to those on close terms.

NIGHT OWL is a captivating song — music and lyrics by Herman Hupfeld — with a melody that, once heard, refuses to leave, and lyrics that move from the poetic wordplay of “I make light of the darkness” to the time-filling repetition of “hooting” . . . but it casts its own spell, verse and chorus.

I think Mr. Langham’s mastery comes from a double sensibility.  You can see him give himself utterly to the song and its romance, yet, at the same time, there is a hint of amusement: “These are the most important words in the world and I must make sure that you feel them deeply but I also know they are just a touch silly . . . and I love them for both reasons.”  Imagine a huge heart and the slightest hint of a grin, simultaneously. His approach is subtle — not the let’s-have-a-ball ebullience of Fats Waller, nor the lush wooing of Russ Columbo, but it is its own splendid personal amalgam.  There’s no one like him, and we are blessed that he exists.

Lester Young told Francois Postif, speaking about the music he was searching for, “It’s got to be sweetness, man, you dig?”  Lester would have enjoyed Spats Langham immensely.  As do we:

Postscript:  Some YouTube viewers are impatient creatures, so they will want to know that the musical part of this performance begins at 2:10, but if you skip forward you will miss Mr. Langham’s narrative about the intriguing-looking, rare and precious musical instrument he is holding (and playing expertly).  It’s a novella in itself.

May your happiness increase!

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MATTERS OF THE HEART: RAMONA (and her Grand Piano) ON FILM 1933-35

The world knew her as Ramona and her Grand Piano when she appeared and recorded with Paul Whiteman and small groups of his sidemen.  She had an intriguingly deep voice and a precise although loose piano style.  Her 1932-35 recordings are treasures (I think the ones under her own name were all contained on one TOM CD) but she isn’t as well as known as she should be.

But here she is on film, announced as THE PRINCESS OF JAZZ, singing STRAIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER (RIGHT FROM THE HEART), lifting her eyes to heaven in the most winsome manner; Con Conrad’s carpe diem, WHY NOT? (“Not to love is no existence”) after having been introduced by Robert Benchley;  in the third clip, from Dick Powell’s 1935 THANKS A MILLION, we see the entire Whiteman Orchestra, with Roy Bargy at the second piano and the King’s Men, leading to her performance of BELLE OF NEW ORLEANS.

Here she is with the Whiteman Orchestra in 1934, singing both choruses of I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN:

and the 1932 LET’S PUT OUT THE LIGHTS AND GO TO SLEEP:

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR (apparently from a 1934 broadcast):

The cautionary tale, ANNIE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (hear her lilt at the start of the second chorus):

The 1935 EV’RY NOW AND THEN (with Jack and Charlie Teagarden, Benny Bonacio, Dick McDonough):

And IF THE MOON TURNS GREEN, from the same year:

Distinctive, worldly, and sweet, no?

For an extraordinary biographical essay on Ramona — written by musician and scholar Peter Mintun — click here — one of the best pieces of enjoyable musicology ever.

May your happiness increase!

EDWARD LOVETT, TROUBADOUR

One afternoon at Jazz at Chautauqua (mid-September 2009) I was walking through the musicians’ room — no doubt on my way to ask someone a question — when I was stopped abruptly by the unexpected and beautiiful sound of a man quietly crooning a song, accompanying himself on the guitar.  I didn’t know him but when he came to a halt I introduced myself, said how much I admired his singing, and asked if he would like me to capture an impromptu performance for my readers.  Happily, he said yes.  His name is Edward Lovett; he lives in New York; he admires early Crosby and the “transitional singers” of the late Twenties, without imitating them.  He reminds me very much of that old-time ideal of making lovely music all on your own — a Jazz Age troubadour, ready to serenade his lady with Carmichael and Porter.

I asked him what song he would like to offer, and we settled on STARDUST, with the verse.  I apologize for the rippling-waters accompaniment, but Edward’s performance was so complete that I did not want to ask for a retake.  Just imagine that Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm is rehearsing nearby:

Then he revealed previously unknown talents as a satirical contemporary lyricist — beginning his rendition of YOU’RE THE TOP with Porter’s verse before launching into three choruses full of nimble rhymes and social commentary:

If he isn’t Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, I don’t know the art of intimate singing.  And Petra van Nuis and Andy Brown, in the audience, agreed with me wholeheartedly (they know!).