The musical wealth of this country is as inspiring as the high desert I traveled to last week. I keep mining gem after gem in the back catalog. Songs that, collectively, we may have forgotten.
But they are there, and these musical diamonds form the centerpiece of my solo performance, when I do my best to display them as on a plush green jeweler’s velvet for their beauty in form and richness of content for all to enjoy.
I visited the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. A world-class collection of the highest order! I’ll have many images to share.
Here, for example, is page 1 of Ella’s vocal chart for Skylark, in large print to accomodate her eyesight. Very likely the chart she read from in the 1964 recording with the Nelson Riddle for Verve. Looks like a big band part. What a marvelous copyist! (A lost skill, really.)
And the entire vocal chart for Route 66, with a key change after the bridge. Early to mid-60s as well? Maybe a rush job, a more impromptu setting for fewer instruments? But still clear and easy to read, don’t you think? Funny, but I don’t recall ever listening to an Ella recording of this tune and the discography doesn’t list one. Maybe somewhere still in the can??
You Go to My Head (Keely Smith) – not really new to me, I’ve just not played it in maybe a decade.
Bluebird (Helen Reddy) — really need that rhythm section, but I’ll put as much as I can of the groove into the right hand. The drum/bass combo on this track (written by Leon Russell) sounds to me like the rhythm section on Sign in Stranger (Steely Dan), which was Purdie/Rainey. Same era, sounds like same studio. But I’ve found no credits for the album online.
Holding Her Freedom (Gabe Dixon) — no piano, but I think it can be done.
The Joker (Tony Newley)
Oh, You Great Big Beautiful Doll (Rosie Clooney, Judy, Jolson, everyone)
NOMA Music out of Los Angeles has taken into inventory several recordings Tony LaVorgna and I made for “A NYC Subway Christmas.” They’ll be made available for syndication in film and television programming over the next few years.
You know what I miss? The girl singers in the background, as in this 1976 track, especially after 2:07. It adds real bigness like nothing else I know. I’ll try to have at least a trio in the background on my next album of originals on a few of the tracks.
Not sure where I’ll find them in Houston just as yet. But I’m sure with all the singing in the churches, they’re here. Just recently at a gig, two ladies about my age, who’d been watching intently the whole night, stepped forward in the last half-hour, sat on the stage and said, “WE’RE SINGIN’ WITH YOU!”
I said, “Well, come on up!” and wouldn’t you know, but they both latched on to their harmony parts immediately and they sounded fantastic. I thought, holy mackerel, these gals had been studio singers! But no, they’d just sang in church all their lives. I’m on the lookout for girl singers in Houston!
As I work in south Texas in live performance, I’m also writing the music for several albums which I’ll record over the next 18 months with musicians in Houston and New Orleans. Perhaps you might be interested in knowing about these projects, which include:
A new set of contemporary lyric song, issued as what we used to call a concept album. Voices, steel-string guitar, bass, keys, some percussion, minimal electronics, not jazz-related, not folksy, not indie, not loud. A leap, in my mind, past Fire and Fall Back, which I’d do differently, knowing what I know now. All the songs I intend to use in the new album have been written (12, at last count) and I’m working to chart them.
Tony LaVorgna and I plan to record a series original numbers early next year, many of which will be showtune-like, setting my lyrics to Tony’s music, in the style of the 1950s, but not quite in imitation. Rather, the style refreshed anew. It can be done. Believe me, it ain’t over for that music.
I’m also looking to get some of this music staged with movement and variety performers, several of which I’ve spoken with. I hope to be able to swing a show at some point next year with Houston performers from a variety of disciplines.
That’s all from Cape Kaye-naveral for now. Over and out!
A few new numbers added to the repetoire (with my fav artist version in parens):
We’ll Be Together Again (Jackie Paris, Sammy Davis)
A Fool Such as I (Hank Snow)
Change Partners (Fred Astaire)
You’ll Never Walk Alone (Christine Hamilton/original ’45 recording)
Here’s the original cast recording of You’ll Never Walk Alone, a delight to listen to.
If you’ve never heard the original cast recording of Carousel (not my favorite musical, mind you), this track, and especially, the singer, Christine Hamilton, a contralto who debuted the role of Nettie Fowler on B’way, are really fine, recorded at the apex of American popular culture.
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