Tag Archives: Our Town

EVERYONE’S LOOKING OUT FOR YOU, SAY MESSRS. BURKE and SPINA

Imagine a community where people are concerned about your happiness in the most affectionate ways.  Today, with smartphone-induced isolation the norm, that world full of solicitous people seems like a dream.  I don’t know if it was truly possible in the middle Thirties, although I think of Wilder’s OUR TOWN, but a charming pop song came out of that vision: one of those simple but memorable melodies with witty sweet lyrics (“who prints / blueprints” is very clever).  As you see below, music by Harold Spina and words by Johnny Burke.

I would have liked to hear Miss Etting sing this.  But we have, instead, a sweet version with the verse (as sung by Kay Weber, Ray Eberle, and the Dorsey Trio — backed by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, the emphatically swinging Ray McKinley — echoing Stan King’s accents — moving it all along):

And here’s the masterful version I heard some decades ago and still love.  This song obviously appealed to Fats, who keeps referring to the bridal march, and the last sixteen bars are a model of great delicate swing:

Here is the only “modern” version that — to me — can follow Fats (Rebecca Kilgore, Chris Dawson, Hal Smith, and Bobby Gordon):

Some readers may wish to point out more recent versions by McCartney and Clapton.  Thanks, but no thanks.  But if you want to muse on the vagaries of pop music, listen — if you can — to the versions by Johnny Angel and Joy and Dave, found on YouTube.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  And thank the milkman if you’re up early.

May your happiness increase!

NOTES FROM MEL, NOTES BY MEL

Kati Powell, August 2013, Menlo Park, California.

I’m honored to know Kathleen Powell — who goes by Kati — whom I met through the kindness of Hank O’Neal.  Kati is a wonderful person on her own: generous in spirit as well as in fact, and her connections to the music are deep. Her mother was Martha Scott, the renowned actress who was the first Emily in Wilder’s OUR TOWN.  Her father began life as Melvin Epstein, but we know him better as Mel Powell, pianist, composer, arranger, and explorer.

In 2013, I had the great privilege of meeting and talking with Kati at her West Coast home (she now lives in New York) about Mel, and our interview can be found here.  And there’s priceless evidence of Kati’s generosity here.  Words and music.

When Kati and I met recently in New York, she had another present for me, and by extension, for you as well.  Yes, the music on the 78 that follows is familiar, or should be, but this disc belonged to Mel, and it is, for that reason, even more special.  I like to imagine the young pianist bending over the speaker in the Thirties, drinking in the sounds, absorbing the magic, making these impulses part of his genetic makeup.

Caveat: YouTube says that this video may be blocked in certain countries because of copyright restrictions.  The music is the 1928 duet of Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, WEATHER BIRD:

and the beautiful reverse, the 1930 duet of Louis and Buck Washington, DEAR OLD SOUTHLAND:

and some notes by Mel — two sides [one a sparkly original, the other DON’T BLAME ME) recorded in Belgium, c. 1945:

and a little of his elegantly deep voice:

We’ll never have all we need of Mel Powell, though.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET AND HOT! BARBARA ROSENE (May 10, 7-10 PM)

I’ve heard Barbara Rosene sing at a variety of places since late 2004, and I’ve always been impressed by her sincerity, her knowledge of her material, and the sympathetic way she worked with jazz players. You have another chance to catch her, surrounded by her creative friends, in the most congenial of settings. The friends? Simon Wettenhall, trumpet; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Jesse Gelber, piano; Kevin Dorn, drums.

Another smoky night club with a high cover charge? Or a dimly lit cabaret?

No, it’s down-to-earth and local: Barbara’s annual appearance at “Cabaret Night,” sponsored by the jazz-loving folks at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 130 Jerusalem Avenue, Hicksville, New York 11801. Not only do Barbara and friends do the songs she’s famous for — in person and on her Stomp Off, Arbors, and Azica CDs — but the ambiance is much like Thornton Wilder’s Grovers Corners. That is, if Our Town had a hip soundtrack and Emily knew all about Annette Hanshaw, Ruth Etting, and Bessie Smith. (I had this vision of a production where Emily sang “You’ve Got The Right Key, But The Wrong Keyhole” to George and scared him to death.)

Where else can you hear hot jazz, watch expert dancing, eat potato chips, and end the evening with sheet cake and coffee?

For more information, Holy Trinity’s number is 516-931-1920. Be sure to visit www.barbararosene.com., too. Saturday night doesn’t have to be the loneliest night of the week.