Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
OK, before we get rolling, did you get the above opening? The one we use every week?
It’s in gold. Gold. For good reason this week.
The Grammy Awards will be presented on February 10.
In May 1959, at a banquet in the Beverly Hilton, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences handed out 28 Grammys. It was the very first Grammy Award celebration. 1959. Can you imagine if the Grammy Awards were around in 1956 and 1957 and 1958? How many would Elvis had walked off with?
The academy, founded in 1957, was new to the awards game. The first Oscars were handed out 30 years earlier and the first Emmys 10 years prior.
There are now dozens of Grammy Award categories. We feature a few this week. Let’s get started.
Last August Tony Bennett celebrated his 92nd birthday. Is anyone surprised he’s up for another Grammy? I’m not.
A month after that birthday Bennett and Diana Krall celebrated their shared love of the music of George and Ira Gershwin on their collaborative album, “LOVE IS HERE TO STAY.”
Bennett has been friends with Diana Krall for more than 20 years. The two toured together in 2000 but this marks their first full album project together.
Perfect timing. “LOVE IS HERE TO STAY” was released to coincide with the 120th Anniversary of George Gershwin’s birthday which took place on September 26, 2018.
Remarkable. Bennett is the only artist at the ages of 85 and 88, respectively, to have an album debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and Krall is the only jazz artist to have eight albums debut at #1 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart.
The two appeared on several national television shows performing songs from “LOVE IS HERE TO STAY” including Good Morning America, Live With Kelly and Ryan, and here on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
This song has been nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
The album the song appeared on is also up for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Now here’s an unlikely combination. These two icons appeared in a public service announcement in 1987.
Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson were honest to goodness friends back then with Sinatra being a major influence.
“I learned a lot about phrasing listening to Frank,” said Nelson. “He didn’t worry about behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever — he could sing it either way, and that’s the feel you have to have.”
Sinatra called Nelson his favorite singer after hearing Nelson’s standards album “Stardust” in 1978 and, believe it or not, Nelson was Sinatra’s opening act at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas in 1987.
Last September the 85-year old Nelson released “My Way,” an album saluting the late Sinatra with 11 songs that one reviewer wrote Nelson effectively delivered “his way, with saloon ease and a warm, ragged twang.”
Nelson sang “A Foggy Day” with Sinatra on the crooner’s last studio album, 1994’s “Duets II.” So it’s no surprise “A Foggy Day” is on the tracking list for Nelson’s 68th studio album of his career.
I know just about everyone is going the “standards” routine, but could Willie Nelson pull it off?
Listen for yourself. My verdict is yes.
Like Tony Bennett and Diana Krall, Nelson is nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Certainly you’ll remember this chunk of pop music history.
It’s June of 1976. Northern Irish rock critic Nik Cohn wrote a piece for New York magazine entitled, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Nights.”
Cohn profiled Vincent, a young Italian-American who worked in a hardware store during the week and partied at a disco club called 2001 Odyssey on the weekend.
Vincent “was the very best dancer in Bay Ridge … he owned 14 floral shirts, five suits, eight pairs of shoes, three overcoats, and had appeared on American Bandstand.”
“The new generation takes few risks,” Cohn wrote. “It goes through high school, obedient; graduates, looks for a job, saves and plans. Endures. And once a week, on Saturday night, its one great moment of release, it explodes. Everything described in this article is factual and was either witnessed by me or told to me directly by the people involved. Only the names of the main characters have been changed.”
Cohn’s piece was the inspiration for a movie that enjoyed mega-popularity.
The soundtrack became one of the bestselling film albums of all time after staying at #1 for an incredible 24 consecutive weeks.
Forty years later PJ Morton and YEBBA, a white woman who strives to sound like a black woman, or just naturally does, are up for Best Traditional R&B Performance with their rendition of a song from the movie.
And now, the rest of the story about Nik Cohn.
Twenty years after Cohn’s article resulted in a disco movie/soundtrack explosion, he admitted he made it all up about Vincent.
There was some truth, however. Cohn says that in 1976, as disco was becoming a phenomenon, he met a disco dancer named Tu Sweet, who introduced him to the clubs of New York. He recalled a figure in flared crimson pants and a black body shirt standing in the doorway of a club in Bay Ridge called 2001 Odyssey.
Cohn went back to the club, but the young man in the doorway wasn’t there.
“I knew nothing about this world, and it showed. Quite literally, I didn’t speak the language. So I faked it. I conjured up the story of the figure in the doorway, and named him Vincent. Taking all I knew about the snake-charmer in Derry, I translated them as best I could to Brooklyn. Then I went back to Bay Ridge in daylight and noted the major landmarks. I walked some streets, went into a couple of stores. Studied the clothes, the gestures, the walks. Imagined how it would feel to burn up, all caged energies, with no outlet but the dance floor and the rituals of Saturday night. Finally, I wrote it all up. And presented it as fact.”
This is amazing. In 1978, there were approximately 75 million households in America. The soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever” sold 15 million copies. One out of five homes bought the album.
Next, a trip to Broadway.
“This week marks the 60th anniversary of ‘My Fair Lady,’ which opened March 15, 1956, at Broadway’s Mark Hellinger. Theater lovers consider it one of the few perfect musicals, because every piece worked.”
Variety.com, March 15, 2016
You know the story. A bachelor professor, Henry Higgins, bets he can turn Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, into royalty by voice lessons and Marine-like instruction on basic manners.
The current Broadway revival of “My Fair Lady” began last April. Laura Benanti replaced Lauren Ambrose as Doolittle last fall and has wowed audiences. From broadwayworld.com:
“Though this reviewer certainly hasn’t seen every Eliza Doolittle that has trod Broadway boards since young Julie Andrews essayed the role’s musical version in 1956, it’s unlikely that New York has previously seen a flower girl who is so much a mature lady at the musical’s outset. Like CHICAGO’s Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, Benanti’s Eliza has come to realize that she’s grown past the point where she can get by on her girlish appeal and requires a new direction in life as she approaches middle age.
“Carrying herself with great poise, even when her broad cockney accent identifies her lack of refinement, this is an Eliza who, like that of her predecessor, is quite believable as someone who has already acquired a certain degree of sophistication. She just lacks the proper skills with which to voice it.
“And then there’s that singing voice; a rich and warm soprano that matches the near-operetta quality of Loewe’s compositions, teamed with impeccable phrasing and expression. This is a musical theatre master in a role that is worthy of her capabilities.
The soundtrack is nominated for Best Musical Theater Album. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last November…
That’s it for this week. More Grammy nominees next Friday.
Have a great weekend.
The Count Basie Orchestra, today directed by Scotty Barnhart, has won every respected jazz poll in the world at least once, won 18 Grammy Awards, performed for Kings, Queens, and other world Royalty, appeared in several movies, television shows, and at every major jazz festival and major concert hall in the world.
They’ve been nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
Even more Grammy nominees!
These were the winners in categories we featured:
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Shallow,” Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
My Way, Willie Nelson
Best Traditional R&B Performance
Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand, Leon Bridges / How Deep Is Your Love, Pj Morton Featuring Yebba
Best Musical Theater Album
The Band’s Visit, Original Broadway Cast
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom, John Daversa Big Band Featuring Daca Artists