A long-held dream of recording some of my favorite jazz and blues standards has come true! I am so grateful to Peter Tillotson, who helped with arrangements, suggested great players, made charts, and wrangled the band during rehearsals and recording. We caught this lightning in a bottle in one long session, on May 23, 2014. I re-sang about half of the vocals, and Eric added mandolin, but otherwise it's as it happened, live.
In these recordings I can hear the influence of all the styles I've sung over the years. Crisp diction comes from decades in choruses and choirs, absorbing good technique from various directors. Swelling a note after entry comes from years of Renaissance polyphony with Vox Lucens, as called for in the arching lines of motets and masses from the 1500s. A smooth line extending through each phrase, dropping the consonants in but not letting them interrupt the flow, also comes from the polyphonic world.
Two hours a week year-round with Vox Lucens has burnished my upper range, built stamina, and given me control over tone and style. A few months of voice lessons back in the previous millennium helped me merge my chest and head voices, and I can roam from one to the other without the seams showing.
All these experiences helped me create a new vocal approach suited to this material. It took awhile for me to find my way into these songs, but now that I've figured it out I just love the results!
Settling into the big comfy couch created by Peter, Mike, Steve, and Billy was just delightful. Eric was a great collaborator on vocals, and goaded me into that final note on "Chewing Gum," a sound I will probably never make again. His masterful engineering captured our ensemble sound and burnished it to a high gloss. He sent the tracks through an analog system to give it the full, lush sound of classic vinyl.
Enjoy! We certainly did!!!
1. Let's Do It! Cole Porter, 1928
Warner Chappell Music, license 35513747
Penned for Porter's first Broadway success, Paris, and so naughty that rewrites were immediately necessary. His original first line was "Japs do it, Chinks do it," which thankfully was retired before too long. I absolutely adore drummer Steve Langone's burlesque take on the refined ladybugs -- I can just see them gyrating down the runway, nipple tassels flying!
Most singers do just two or three verses, as the later ones seem a bit ragged. I am responsible for "Snails amid the daffodils" and "Oh me oh my, there's no why to it." Sad to say, I did not manage to fit in "Old octopi, with a sigh, do it." I may be forced to pen a whole 'nother verse on the seafood theme.
2. Since I Fell For You Woodrow Wilson "Buddy" Johnson, 1945
Warner Chappell Music, license 35504098
I've been singing this for years, but not backed by such a luscious band! This melody just burrows into your brain, and epitomizes the paradox that singing the blues makes you feel good.
3. The Blue Room Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, 1926
Warner Chappell Music, license 35513768
A little bon-bon in a velvet box. I just love Hart's rhymes, but even better is Rodgers' thrilling climb up the scale to "just nothing but kisses!"
4. Autumn Leaves Jacques Prévert & Joseph Kosma, 1945 / Johnny Mercer, 1947
Enoch & Cie, S D R M, license 35507311, 35506219
In Prévert's original French, the title was "Les feuilles mortes" or "The Dead Leaves." It has two immensely depressing verses that I left unsung. Mercer's elegant chorus is all you really need, in any language. He did not try for a direct translation, but perfectly captured the mood of quiet regret.
Here's the original French chorus:
C'est une chanson, qui nous ressemble;The literal translation:
Toi, tu m'aimais, et je t'aimais.
Nous vivions tout, les deux ensemble;
Toi, qui m'aimais, moi, qui t'aimais.
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment,
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit.
Et la mer efface sur la sable
Les pas des amants desunis.
Here is a song that looks like us:
You, who loved me, and I loved you.
We lived everything, the two of us together;
You, who loved me, and me, I loved you.
But life separates those who love,
Very slowly and quietly.
And the sea erases from the sand
The steps of parted lovers.
5. La vie en rose Marguerite Monnot, Louis Guglielmi and Edith Piaf, 1945
Warner Chappell Music, Polygram Music Publishing, licenses 5506786 and 35504105
At first Edith didn't think much of her lyrics, set to music by Marguerite and "Luigi," but once she added this treasure to her set list it never left. Here's the French, and the translation:
Des yeux qui font baisser les miens,In English:
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche,
Voila le portrait, sans retouches,
De l'homme auquel j'appartiens.
Quand il me prend dans ses bras,
Il me parle tout bas,
Je vois la vie en rose
Il me dit des mots d'amour,
Des mots de tous les jours,
Et ça me fait quelque chose.
Il est entre dans mon coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause.
C'est lui pour moi, moi pour lui dans la vie.
Il me l'a dit, l'a jure pour la vie.
Et, des que je l'aperçois,
Alors je sens en moi,
Mon coeur qui bat.
Des nuits d'amour a plus finir,
Un grand bonheur qui prend sa place.
Les ennuis, les chagrins, s'effaces.
Heureux, heureux a en mourir!
Those eyes that look down into mine,
A laugh that gets lost on his mouth,
There's the portrait, unretouched,
Of the man with whom I belong.
When he takes me in his arms,
And speaks to me softly,
I see my life in roses.
He tells me words of love
I hear them every day,
And that tells me something special.
He has brought into my heart
A piece of happiness
And I know he's the cause.
It's him for me, me for him, all through our lives.
He has told me so, has sworn it for life.
And because I realize this,
I feel inside me,
My heart as it beats.
When nights of love are over,
A great happiness takes their place.
Troubles and regrets are erased.
Happy, happy until we die!
6. Summertime George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, 1934
Warner Chappell Music, license 35504091
Dad's rich, Mom's hot. What more could a lucky baby want? This all-time favorite becomes particularly poignant for a mom whose little red-headed bird just recently spread her wings and took to the sky.
7. My Buddy Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn, 1922
So simple, so sweet. I learned this as a teen from my Reader's Digest Treasury of American Song, a source of musical wealth that both Peter and I enjoyed in our youth. In true digest fashion, it left out all the verses, but gave lots of information about composers, shows, and the history of the creation of these classics that continue to inspire fresh interpretations after so many years. Thanks to YouTube, verses are now readily available, and I was happy to find this one, so utterly reminiscent of its time.
8. Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost
Overnight? Billy Rose, Marty Bloom and Ernest Breuer, 1924
EMI Mills Music, license 35512431
We pose this musical question with "King of Skiffle" Lonnie Donegan's big hit, which reached No. 3 on the 1959 UK Singles Chart and soared to No. 5 on the 1961 Billboard Hot 100. The song was already over 35 years old when Donegan's perpetrated his version. For my version I researched the many brands of gum, a very prolific product for well over a century. In addition to going nuts with 29 gum names, I adjusted the lyrics of a chorus or two.
Mr. Kilburn joins us on one of his many, many mandolins. In the midst of the general lunacy, Mr. Novick had the brainstorm to digress into a tootly march. Everybody followed along with glee, as the whole band seems to share a similarly demented sense of humor.
9. I Love You More Than Cheese Sandra Boynton and Michael
Ford, 2004 / second half by Jonathan Gilbert, 2006
Boynton/Ford Music, license 35513285
Mr. Gilbert took Ms. Boynton's delightful lyrics and ran with them, adding many additional species of cheese and some truly tasty rhymes. Once again we enjoy Eric's delicious mandolin.
10. If I Could Be With You / Tiptoe Through the Tulips
James P. Johnson and Henry Creamer, 1926 / Joe Burke and Al Dubin, 1929
Warner Chappell Music, licenses 35513756 and 35513763
The theme song of McKinney's Cotton Pickers (drop that into your next conversation), this jaunty number pops up in Casablanca and was whistled by Jack Lemmon as Ensign Pulver in the movie Mister Roberts. I pair it with the ever-delightful Tiptoe, which was used in the very first Looney Tunes cartoon, in 1930. Never has an upright bass tip-toed so delicately!
11. Etoile d'amour (Stardust) Hoagy Carmichael, 1927, and Mitchell Parish, 1929
Mills Music, license 35512424
Hoagy's tune was a peppy instrumental until Parish's lyrics made it the moody ballad covered by thousands. It's even moodier in French, and so much fun to sing in that language of romance.
12. Count Your Blessings Irving Berlin, 1954
Irving Berlin Music Company, license 35496895
This lovely lullaby was written for the film White Christmas, crooned by Bing Crosby to a tired but sleepless Rosemary Clooney. Among my many blessings I count my husband and patron, John, and these superb musicians. Thank you all!!!