Tag Archives: Sammy Fain

ROMANTICALLY YOURS, THOMAS “FATS” WALLER

The legend that’s continued after Fats Waller’s untimely death is that he was marvelously creative but also an outlandish clown, especially when given poor material to record, undermining it with mocking asides and jokes.  But I treasure those times when he respected the song and showed us what a tender singer he was.  The performances below aren’t comic or anarchic; there are no uptempo stride extravaganzas.  But gentle feeling shines through every note.

FAIR AND SQUARE is a song I came to love through performances by Lueder Ohlwein of the Sunset Music Company, a whole rhythm section and glorious singer on his own.  The composer credits are usually given to Andy Razaf and Leo Robin, although one HMV record label assigns the song to Harry Woods, I think in error:

I first heard this very sweet song because of Melissa Collard’s 2004 memorable recording.  But Fats did it first:

This performance sounds as if Fats is going to launch into hilarious mockery, but he doesn’t.  The songwriters Charlie Tobias and Sammy Fain knew how to transform cliches.  Wait for the lovely piano coda:

Here, also, Fats trembles on the edge of amusement, but chooses to focus on the song’s essential sadness:

Lovely music and lovely sentiments from Thomas Waller.

May your happiness increase!

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DEEP FEELING WITHOUT WORDS: JAMES DAPOGNY WITH STRINGS (Ann Arbor, January 10, 2015)

Here’s another gem — the rueful Thirties novella of love, that although ended, is undying — THAT OLD FEELING.  This performance, which I find so moving, comes from the appearance of the James Dapogny Quartet at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 10, 2015 — captured for us by Laura Beth Wyman.

The Quartet is, for this occasion, Professor Dapogny on piano, arrangements, and moral guidance; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass.

I love this performance for many reasons — not the least of which is the opportunity to hear Mister Karoub, unequalled in swing lyricism, play at length. There’s also the sweet but practical exchange of whispered instructions and commentary at the beginning, as the Professor kindly shows the way.  But what pleases me most is the emotional complexity of the performance.  In other hands, THAT OLD FEELING might be merely sad or wistful.

That emotion isn’t neglected in this rendition, but the Quartet beautifully evokes the Thirties tradition of playing ballads just a bit faster — perhaps to distinguish them from sweetly gelatinous readings by more staid orchestras, or perhaps to give the players an extra chorus for improvising.  I think of Billie’s TRAV’LIN’ ALL ALONE and Mildred’s WHEN DAY IS DONE as two vocal exemplars — but even though no words are uttered, listeners of a certain age will hear the story of the lyrics unfold as the band plays.

Old feelings made new:

Two other delights from this session can be found here.  And there is the promise of more from this concert.

May your happiness increase!

“I HEAR THE MUSIC NOW”: REBECCA KILGORE and RANDY PORTER at the PIEDMONT PIANO COMPANY (Oakland, California: Jan. 31, 2014)

A few nights ago, Rebecca Kilgore and pianist Randy Porter gave a delightful duo-concert at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, California.  Randy was performing on a brand-new Yamaha CPX piano, and Rebecca brought her own beautiful instruments: her creamy voice, her wise, light-hearted interpretations.  And although Becky is always heralded as “an interpreter of the Great American Songbook,” she has a very expansive repertoire, going back seventy-five years and forward to contemporary music by Nellie McKay.

Here are some highlights of that evening.

Sammy Fain’s I HEAR THE MUSIC NOW:

Nellie McKay’s I WANNA GET MARRIED:

The Rodgers and Hammerstein edgy declaration of thwarted love, THE GENTLEMAN IS A DOPE:

Dave Frishberg’s ZANZIBAR:

Johnny Mercer’s JAMBOREE JONES, with its roller-coaster tongue-twisting lyrics:

and the lovely hip lullaby, thanks to Mercer and Harold Arlen, HIT THE ROAD TO DREAMLAND:

My ears, as always, were focused on the Kilgore magic — gently gliding through the lyrics, making them even more meaningful, gently improvising, making the melodies shine . . . but our Mr. Porter is astonishing: his command of the piano, his touch, his harmonic depths and always-surprising but beautiful inventions.  And what a beautiful place Piedmont is . . . wonderful-sounding instruments everywhere.  And they have regular concert performances from a wide variety of artists: click here.

Don’t you wish your local piano emporium had a Kilgore recital on the calendar?

May your happiness increase!

CHARACTERISTICALLY MARTY GROSZ: THE “ORPHAN NEWSBOYS” (1997)

I’m delighted that the tireless videographer Don Wolff has decided to share another performance from his archives with us — this one from the 1997 Mid-America Jazz Festival in St. Louis. 

It features Marty Grosz in classic form: bespoke bowtie and striped shirt, verbal effusiveness in full flower, describing the “joints” of yesteryear . . . before inviting the boys to swing out — “the boys” being the dewy Peter Ecklund (cornet), Bobby Gordon (clarinet), and Greg Cohen (string bass).

And swing out they certainly do — on WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, at a wonderfully leisurely tempo suitable for romance over Lapsang Souchong, or perhaps Earl Grey:

More, please, Don?

FOUR MORE FROM SOFIA’S (June 1, 2010)

For your listening and dancing pleasure, JAZZ LIVES is delighted to present another four performances by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks from their inaugural Tuesday night appearance at “Club Cache” in Sofia’s on the lower level of the Hotel Edison (221 West 46th Street) in New York City.

The heroic (and victorious) creators are Vince himself, Arnie Kinsella, Ken Salvo, Peter Yarin, Andy Stein, Dennis Joseph, Dan Block, Andy Farber, Jim Fryer, Mike Ponella, and Jon-Erik Kellso.  They honor the great tradition of twentieth-century American pop / jazz / dance music, staying true to the original intent of the composers and arrangers while creating something new and fresh in every bar.

Bandleaders please note: everyone gets a chance to speak his piece in the course of a set: this is a happily democratic band.

DON’T BE LIKE THAT, a Sammy Fain tune designed to coax a reluctant love object into happy erotic compliance:

SINGIN’ THE BLUES, Mark Lopeman’s transcription of the irreplaceable Bix Beiderbecke – Frank Trumbauer – Eddie Lang classic:

PEGGY, from the book of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, courtesy of Don Redman, John Nesbitt, and our own John Wriggle:

A hot dance extravaganza: WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, featuring beautiful work by Andy Farber:

As I write this, it’s truly hot in New York City.  I prescribe a proven homeopathic cure — Hot jazz and hot dance music at Sofia’s, now twice a week.