Tag Archives: Ray Henderson

TAKE ONE, TAKE TWO (Chicago, January 24, 1929)

I don’t remember in which antique store I found a shiny copy of the record above, except that my boredom (prowling through aisles of overpriced odd fragments of human history) stopped instantly.  It’s a famous recording, because more than twenty years ago, an unidentified trumpet solo that sounded rather Bixian was seized upon as being a true Bix improvisation.  I assure you that the dramatic discussions that went on — read here if you like — are not my subject.

Before I delve into why, here’s some data: the personnel as stated by Tom Lord: Ray Miller And His Orchestra : Muggsy Spanier (cnt) Max Connett, Lloyd Wallen (tp) Jules Fasthoff (tb) Jim Cannon (cl,as) Maurice Morse (as) Lyle Smith (ts) Paul Lyman (vln) Art Gronwall (p,arr) Leon Kaplan (bj,g) Jules Cassard (tu,b) Bill Paley (d) Bob Nolan, Mary Williams (vcl) Ray Miller (dir).

Why should I post the two takes of CRADLE OF LOVE?  For one thing, I have been putting my 78s in order and I saw the record, decided to play it, liked it, played it several times over.  And I continue to do so: it has become something I love.

The song itself — by the team that had a hit with RAMONA — is delightful in its limited scope.  You might know the story that Ray Henderson, Bud De Sylva, and Lew Brown — responsible for many hits — decided to write the worst song they could, with every tear-jerking cliche, and the result was SONNY BOY, which — with Al Jolson’s fervent performance (and his adding his name to the credits) was a million-seller.

I don’t know if the SONNY BOY story is true, but there’s something about CRADLE OF LOVE that hints at its composers asking themselves what they could do to assure themselves a hit.

First, pick a very optimistic premise: the young couple, so in love, in their tiny rural paradise which will be paid off in a year; they have chickens; their neighbors love them; they will have a baby soon.  Fecundity, domesticity, domestic bliss, prosperity — pleasing dreams, especially in January 1929 with no hint of the Crash to come. Home, young love, sex, and chickens!  And yes, the song is very close to MY BLUE HEAVEN, which made a great deal of money not too long before.

Second, invent a melody with an irresistible hook that sounds much like MAKIN’ WHOOPEE (a song with a clearly divergent view of domestic bliss, curdled) and put the two together.  The one touch of realism in this dream-world is that the neighbors “smile / most of the while” (my emphasis).  Why there are these noticeable lapses in grinning is never explained, especially since “all” would have worked just as well in the line.  Perhaps Wayne and Gilbert had some scruples.

CRADLE OF LOVE should have been memorable, but didn’t become so.  However, there’s so much that pleases me in these recordings (there are rumors of a third non-vocal version, made for the German market, but I don’t know anyone who has heard it).  The Miller band just sounds good, and they balance their instrumental work and the “hot” solos so beautifully.  (Yes, the question has been asked, “Why two trumpet / cornet improvisations on the same — white — dance band record?” to which I have no answer.)  It means a great deal to me that the statement of the verse is a wonderful early Muggsy Spanier episode, as well.  I don’t feel the need to mock Bob Nolan, either.  And Eddy Davis was telling me, a few weeks ago, about working with pianist Art Gronwall — to which I could only say, “Wow!”  The rhythm section has a nice bounce, and the trombone interlude reminds me cheerfully of Miff Mole.

So I invite you to listen, to put aside preconceptions, and simply enjoy.

Take One:

Take Two:

and, just because YouTube makes it possible for me to share it with you, here is the Paul Whiteman version recorded fourteen days earlier, an entirely different orchestral rendition, with a lovely Trumbauer bridge near the end:

Slightly more than ten months after the Miller recording, the stock market crash changed everyone’s lives.  I hope the young couple had paid off every stick and stone before then, and could make a living selling eggs.  How the toad plays into this I can’t imagine, but I hope (s)he and others prospered.  Otherwise it’s too dire to contemplate.

Note: readers who feel a pressing need to extend the Bix-or-not-Bix discussion will not find their comments printed here.  Enough idolatry, thanks.  I don’t think it’s Bix — but it’s my blog and I have some privileges therein.

May your happiness increase!

SWINGING AT LE COLONIAL with ROB REICH, KALLY PRICE, DANNY BROWN, CLINT BAKER, ERIC GARLAND (August 2, 2012)

Le Colonial, hidden away on Cosmo Street in San Francisco, is known for its ambiance, drinks, cuisine . . . and intriguing music.  Last Thursday night I made my way there to hear a small group led by the inventive pianist / accordionist Rob Reich — with the soulful Kally Price on vocals — with reedman Danny Brown, drummer Eric Garland, and the reliably swinging Clint Baker on string bass.

Readers of JAZZ LIVES will know how much I admire the independent spirits Kally, Rob, and Clint — individualists each paddling their way upstream and sharing the surprises with us.  Rob continued to approach his keyboards from unexpected angles, the results energetic and full of feeling.  I distrust the accordion, having had a childhood involvement with that cumbersome instrument, but Rob has clearly left both left-hand chugging and melodrama behind him (in the case, no doubt).  And his piano work sounds like something heard in the right small club in 1946.

Clint swings the band no matter what he’s doing there — leading it on trumpet, supporting it on bass, tuba, drums, guitar, banjo . . . singing . . . and so on.  And what an eloquent soloist he is!

Kally Price is dramatic without artifice, searching for meaning, unwilling to sing any song if one phrase feels false to her, going beneath the comfortable surfaces of the familiar popular twists and turns to extract deep feeling. Hear what she does, for instance, with the verse of BORN TO LOVE or the whole of IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN.

Danny Brown and Eric Garland were new to me, but they provided musical conversion experiences.  As the evening progressed, Danny moved from a lazy late-Lester approach to a more assertive stance, suggesting that Jacquet and Dexter had returned to their California haunts.  He didn’t walk the bar or carry on, but his rough, dark energies were irresistible.  And Eric, playing wire brushes for most of the evening, just swung in his own way — not loud or overbearing, but reliably forceful with a beautiful steadiness in his time.

Here are some highlights.

STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY — not too fast but certainly compelling from the first beat:

A Latin-flavored COCKTAILS FOR TWO with just a hint of ironic amusement — a Jazz Mojito with a twenty-first century twist:

Kally’s version of BORN TO LOVE, inspired by Billie Holiday but darker, more passionately raw:

RUSSIAN LULLABY, which made no one sleepy:

GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE, again thanks to Billie but taken quite seriously:

I associated THE DUMMY SONG with a 1953 performance by Louis, but I hadn’t known that the song dated back to 1925 — by Lew Brown, Billy Rose, and Ray Henderson.  The story is told in the verses: Johnny, a returning soldier, surely from the Great War, finds his sweetheart is unfaithful to him — first with a sergeant, than a colonel — so he sings this vindictive song:

A SMOOTH ONE, homage to Charlie Christian and tenor saxophonists who glide without forgetting how to be a little rough:

An utterly impassioned reading of IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN that dwells much more on the rejection, the slight, than it blithely suggests that the romance can be saved:

May your happiness increase.