Tag Archives: Mike Riley

PREPARE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY: “MY BANNER IS THE MOON UP ABOVE” (1936)

I know it’s almost a week away.  But all satisfactory endeavors require planning.

When you detach Valentine’s Day from its commercial roots — flowers, chocolate, intriguing articles of clothing, New York pizza delivered anywhere — there’s still something to be cherished.  Especially in this arduous landscape, it’s uplifting to dream of romance even if it hasn’t yet taken shape.  If you do have someone in your life who accelerates your pulse rate in the best ways, I celebrate that enthusiastically.  And all celebrations need the right music.

My post about SING, BABY, SING pleased a few viewers, so I am inspired to present another 1936 pop hit — I DON’T WANT TO MAKE HISTORY (I Just Want to Make Love) by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger — in several versions.  I’d like to see this song picked up by jazz singers: not much has happened to it since its first decade: it could be the Official JAZZ LIVES Romance Song, so see if you might commit it to memory.

The film it came from, PALM SPRINGS, seems exceptionally silly, even though it had in its cast Spring Byington, Grady Sutton, Smith Ballew as a triumphant cowboy-love interest, Sterling Holloway, young David Niven, and the irreplaceable Fuzzy Knight, it lost money.

Disclaimer: I think that in 1936, “I just want to make love” did not refer to position 5.1.a in the Kama Sutra, but the larger, sweeter notion of Romance, which could lead to such aerobics.  (In 5.1.a., one partner sings OL’ MAN MOSE while the other shreds cabbage for cole slaw.  Not for the timid but satisfying.)

I begin with a distinctly un-jazzy recording, tender rather than hot, to let you hear the verse and an alternate bridge (how clever Robin could be) sung from the feminine perspective, that of the lovely Frances Langford:

Here’s a multi-media bonanza: a Fleischer Studios Screen Song with Mike Riley singing with Vincent Lopez at the piano, a bouncing-ball sing-along, brief visits to YOU HIT THE SPOT and US ON A BUS, and some goofy comedy:

Now the rather tepid crooning of Bob Crosby, with brief inspired spots for Ward Silloway, Matty Matlock, Eddie Miller, Yank Lawson, and Ray Bauduc:

A favorite of mine: Stew Pletcher, singing and playing for Bluebird Records — and that familiar xylophone is of course Red Norvo:

Finally, let’s go to Fifty-Second Street for Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys:

I hope you get to make love, and that it’s historic as well.

May your happiness increase!

 

“HEY! HEY!” or “OH, TURN THAT DIAL!”

This song chronicles elation, although I suspect that the song is not one of James P.’s most lasting, and Bob Hayes looks more dour than thrilled.  But no matter.

What’s the reason for the cheer?

Carl Sonny Leyland, pianist extraordinaire, also has his own radio show.  He creates it from his home and relies on his large collection of jazz, pop, and blues rarities, so it is worth tuning in to.

Marc Caparone tells me that it’s on the Paso Robles NPR radio station, KCBX, which streams it live on the web as well.  Sonny broadcasts live on Friday nights  at 8pm Pacific time.  The link for the station: http://www.kcbx.org/ and the link for streaming:
http://www.kcbx.org/Pages/Programming/listen_live.html.

Hey! Hey!  Listen your cares away!

JAMES P. JOHNSON, EVERYWHERE

On eBay, there are always a good number of James P. Johnson recordings — ranging from original 78s to 10″ and 12″ vinyl pressings to the occasional compact disc.  Today, though, a small trove of sheet music has come to light — worth admiring.  This song is justly famous — one of James P.’s pretty lines (with echoes of CARELESS LOVE and perhaps even older, undocumented folk strains).  Of course I remember Kenny Davern’s comment on this title, “You know, that’s face to face.”

James P. 1

Here’s another — perhaps more famous because of Fats Waller and Marty Grosz.  The cover, typically, is wonderfully idealized; neither of those two comely people looks like a porter or a chambermaid, but perhaps they’re dressed up for Thursday night at the Savoy Ballroom:James P. 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the last one is a real oddity.  Somehow I don’t think of it as a particularly ambitious composition — is it the presence of Mike Riley? — but I wonder if any of my readers has ever heard it.  James P. 3

Now to more serious matters.  Although no one would count James P. Johnson as undeserving, he is buried in an unmarked grave.  In New York City, a group of jazz pianists led by Spike Wilner have set up a downtown version of a Harlem rent party to benefit James P., posthumously — to purchase a marker for his grave.  I won’t be nearby on October 4, but this is an enterprise worth supporting:     James P. Johnson’s Last Rent Party!

 Smalls Jazz Club     Oct. 4th, 2009      1:00-to 9:00 PM

 James P. Johnson, the father of stride piano, the composer of “The Charleston” and “Carolina Shout,” and one of the founders of modern jazz piano lies, shockingly, in an unmarked grave in Maspeth, Queens, Mt. Olivet Cemetery.  Please join the James P. Johnson Foundation, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to music education and to raise the awareness of James P. Johnson, the Johnson family and Smalls Jazz Club for an all day “rent party” to raise money to buy a monument to commemorate this great musician!  Join us on Sunday, October 4th beginning at 1:00 PM at Smalls Jazz Club located at 183 West 10th Street at 7th Ave.  The afternoon will begin with a symposium by musicologist and Johnson scholar Scott Brown on the life and work of James P. Johnson.  This will include an exhibit from The James P. Johnson archive housed at The Rutgers Institute for Jazz Studies.  Around 3:00 will then be a steady stream of pianists to play solo piano in tribute to James P. Johnson.  Artists to appear include: Dick Hyman, Ethan Iverson, Ted Rosenthal, Terry Waldo, Mike Lipskin, Conal Fowlkes, Spike Wilner, Aaron Diehl and others to be announced.  Suggested tax-free donations are $20 with all the proceeds to go to the James P. Johnson Foundation.  You may come and go as you please throughout the afternoon.  Refreshments will be served.  Please come by and pay your respects to The Dean of Stride Pianists!   For more information:  info@smallsjazzclub.comwww.jamespjohnson.org.