Tag Archives: The Wizard of Oz

REBECCA KILGORE’S WISTFUL HEART (Mezzrow, January 18, 2017)

oz-large

Great artists make the familiar magically alive. Many of us have seen the film THE WIZARD OF OZ, perhaps as children, so the score is well-known. But at the beginning of 2017, January 18, to be precise, Rebecca Kilgore (accompanied by the imaginative Ehud Asherie) imbued the Harold Arlen – Yip Harburg song IF I ONLY HAD A HEART with yearning depths of feeling I’d never experienced before.

Rebecca said that she was inspired by the performance of the late Susannah McCorkle, but this is no copy of Susannah: it is a wistful journey all its own.  And it shows, in case anyone needed reminding, that Ms. Kilgore’s heart is large and generous.  I think she is singing better than ever; judge for yourselves.

(A word about that intrusive microphone stand: I knew it was there but didn’t feel right whispering between songs, “Could you move that stand out of the way?”  My error.  Close your eyes and listen.)

The Kilgore magic — heartfelt in many moods — is also evident on her most recent CD for Arbors Records, a duet with the splendid pianist Bernd Lhotzky, THIS AND THAT.  Here ‘s the link to purchase a copy or several.  I’ve been listening to Rebecca for years, and I think that this CD captures her voice and spirit perhaps better than any other release.  And that is saying a great deal.

this-and-that

I was honored to write a few words for this release.

You know those moments in conversation when communication truly works, so that simple words carry deeper meaning – when speaker and hearer get one another? This communion can happen when musicians who live their art deeply create a heartfelt kinship. This CD captures fifteen such lovely interludes created by a most empathic pair.

While we trot along in the nature preserve of song, Rebecca and Bernd point out rare flowers and wild asparagus we would otherwise have missed. Consider the song most familiar to you on this disc. Marvel at how fresh they make it. The opening phrases of SWEET AND LOVELY are a splendid example. Study Bernd’s solo interlude before the chorus of THE BEST THING FOR YOU, and Rebecca’s transformations of the repeated words in DO DO DO into something lively and elastic. Thanks to technology, you are free to play I’M SHOOTING HIGH twelve times in a row. It’s restorative, better than the reproachful Fitbit around your wrist. I remain entranced by the way these two turn the tick-tock-tick of the verse into the free and soaring chorus.

Listening and re-listening, I ask myself, “How do they know how to do that most exquisite wiggle right there?” One answer is that Bernd and Rebecca have spent their lives hard at work but also joyously at play in the music they love. So each song becomes a fully realized lyrical playlet, a three-minute world of feeling and swing. Some of the songs bubble with optimism and hope, an antidote to the day’s news. Others, somber and mournful, remind us that art transforms sorrow into something more. We feel the beauty of the lament, the sound of yearning.

I haven’t tried to explicate this music, since words can’t ever explain the sensations of the first bite of ripe fruit. But I am delighted and awed by what Rebecca and Bernd offer here. Who could want a sweeter surprise? Better yet, fifteen sweet surprises.

Rebecca knows the way into our hearts.  We welcome her in.

May your happiness increase!

GOOD OLD NEW YORK: THE EAR INN, August 29, 2010

Glinda the Good Witch was right: there is no place like home. 

Especially when “home” is defined loosely as the places where you are made to feel welcome. 

The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street in New York City) is just such a place.  I know all about it  — from the warm hello I got from Victor, who knows all there is to know about English gardens to the friendliness of Jim and Grace Balantic, to the hot jazz that the EarRegulars played that night.

The EarRegulars began as a conversation among four jazz friends: Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri, co-founders; John Allred and Jon Burr, charter members.  (One of the musicians that night essayed the appropriate joke: “Three Jo(h)ns — no waiting!”)  And Harvey Tibbs and Dan Block, faithful and true, came to join the festivities.  Here’s some of what I basked in that night:

Jon-Erik pointed out that August 29, as well as being Charlie Parker’s birthday, was also the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  He has a special fondness for New Orleans, and called a number of tunes that had connections to that city. 

Here’s a song that leaps into your lap and says YES — ‘DEED I DO:

JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE where, if you look closely, you’ll see Jon-Erik playing air trombone (to fit in with the general sliding going on) and hear John Allred sing a few high-pitched countermelodies — everyone having a wonderful time:

MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND began with the verse — played as a duet for trumpet and guitar — before the jamming on the more well-known chorus began:

NEW ORLEANS, written by Hoagy Carmichael, sung by Louis and Jimmy Rushing, among others, got a beautifully pensive treatment:

THAT DA DA STRAIN went back to the New Orleans Rhythm Kings — recorded first in the very early Twenties and still a very lively piece of jazz history:

And the way that everyone wrapped up the evening was a collective improvisatory musing on the question that continues to be central to philosophical and ontological inquiries, HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO DO DO (I Ain’t Done Nothing To You)?  It’s such a deep issue that the EarRegulars took a long time to consider the issue and its implications:

And the final bit of goodness: