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.
File this one under “They just don’t write them like they used to.”
Songwriter/musician Sammy Cahn once said Irving Berlin was one of the two most gifted men of American words and music. The other, said Cahn, was Cole Porter. We just ended October. One of the greatest contributors to the Great American Songbook, Cole Porter died 55 years ago October of this year. So tonight, the music and lyrics of Cole Porter that live on. Let’s get started.
In his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, Alec Wilder writes about our opening tune, “This is a very good, essentially simple song, in spite of its half note triplets, but, as is almost always the case with Porter songs, it is popular as much because of its lyric as its melody. This, however, is not true for jazz musicians who like it for its looseness, which provides ample room for improvisation. Needless to say, the half note triplets are, for the most part, ignored by them.”
Max Morath writes in The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards, “Jazz musicians go for it–they love most anything of Porter’s–those long melody lines and the beat, often Latin-tinged, that is so often implicit in his theater songs.”
The Main Event was a TV special recorded at New York’s Madison Square Garden broadcast on October 13, 1974. Milwaukee native Woody Herman and his Orchestra backed up Sinatra.
I had the pleasure of working with a talented radio personality and writer during the 1980’s at WUWM and he and I became wonderful friends. Obie Yadgar approached me one day and inquired if he could produce a news segment for the all-news morning drive format. This request was unusual because Obie was our premier classical music announcer, not a reporter, though I knew he was an exceptional writer.
Sure, I said, what have ya got in mind?
Seems one of the biggest of the big band era stars had stopped in Milwaukee and Obie was able to get a one-on-one interview. Problem was that Obie said he had so much good material. No problem, I countered. Simply do a multi-part series.
Artie Shaw was a bona fide superstar during the height of the big bands making him a favorite of the gossip columnists. His wives included actresses Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, and Evelyn Keyes (“Gone with the Wind”).
I’ll never forget Shaw telling Obie on tape about the heydays of the big bands when his orchestra would fill a ballroom far beyond fire department regulations. The dance floor would get so crowded and so hot that women would pass out. With nowhere to go, since they were held up from hitting the floor by the mass of dancers, the bodies would be hoisted up and passed like students at a football game and deposited on the stage.
Mom, I know Shaw and his signature song were big favorites. This one’s for you, from a 1970’s ensemble.
Next up, another timeless treasure.
Trumpeter Chris Botti is joined by a young lovely he knows “Everyone in the world has a crush on.”
This video was difficult to find but we’ve got it. Just click here and then click the play button for Chris Botti and his special guest performing with the Boston Pops in 2009.
Yep, I think I’ve got a crush on her as well.
Katharine McPhee was named one of the 100 Most Beautiful People of 2007 by People magazine. She was voted No. 2 on FHM‘s 100 Sexiest Women in The World of 2007, and was also No. 47 on Maxim‘s Hot 100 Women of 2007.
It’s natural McPhee would be paired with Botti who People Magazine voted one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004.
There’s quite an interesting story about our next track that comes from the rock group Chicago’s 22nd album. From chicagotheband.com:
Back in the early ’70’s, (Duke) Ellington had asked to have Chicago appear on his TV special, Duke Ellington: We Love You Madly, along with such august company as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, and Count Basie. After the show, (Walter) Parazaider and (James) Pankow went to meet Ellington, who was near the end of his illustrious career. “I said, “Mr. Ellington, it really was an honor to be asked to be on your show,” Parazaider recalls, “and he looked at Jimmy and me, and he said, ‘On the contrary young men, the honor is all mine because you’re the next Duke Ellingtons.’
Jimmy and I were gassed to meet him and that he said that. We were going away, and I said, ‘Yeah, right, now if we can make another hit record to pay the rent we’ll be happy,’ not thinking about the long haul. When the idea for (a) big band album presented itself, at first it got a lukewarm reaction by the band. Then Jimmy and I remembered this, and I thought, maybe this is what we were supposed to do in the scheme of our musical life. So, that was one of the reasons that we warmed up to the idea of it.”
“The approach that we wanted to take on Night & Day – and I think were successful in doing – was to contemporize,” says Imboden. “We didn’t do anything traditional, at least in the rhythm section.” At the same time, however, the album continued the effort Chicago has always made to bring horns back to a primary place in popular music. “Horns were the vocals of the time,” says big band enthusiast Lee Loughnane of the Swing Era. “They did all the playing, and then halfway through the song the vocalist would come in with a couple of choruses, and then he’d sit down again. Then rock ‘n’ roll comes out, and what was the rhythm section, the guitar, became the lead voice for a long time. And then Chicago comes, and we try to make the horns the lead voice again, and we’ve been pretty successful at it.”
“It was a great musical experience, and that’s what it’s all about, in my mind,” (Lee) Loughnane concludes. “I think it should have been more popular than it has become, but it’s still a great piece of music as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll take that to the grave with me. I know we put everything we had into it, and it came out sounding great.”
In 1995 Chicago released their big band/swing music LP. Here’s the title track.
That’s Chicago on the football field at the University of Notre Dame. One of the group’s original mentors, the late Rev. George Wiskirchen, C.S.C., served as assistant director of bands at Notre Dame from 1972 to 2001 and maintained a close connection between the Notre Dame Band and Chicago. The band’s manager is Peter Schivarelli, a 1971 Notre Dame graduate.
Only three of the original Chicago band members are left: Robert Lamm (vocals, keyboards), Lee Loughnane(trumpet), and James Pankow (trombone).
“In a strange way, the guys who are maybe a generation younger who have come to fill in are better players than we were when we started out, so I would say the level of skill has improved with each sort of injection of fresh blood. The new guys have made the band better and maybe have more energy than the standard band that was showing up in the ‘90s and early ’00s, said Robert Lamm of Chicago.
“We’ve played some gigs with the current Blood, Sweat & Tears, and I think that from the listeners’ point of view it sounds like Blood, Sweat & Tears, even though they don’t recognize anybody on the stage from the first couple of albums, and it doesn’t seem to matter much. I think that could be the case with [Chicago] too.”
That’s it for this segment.
Have a great weekend.
We close with a song that displays that Cole Porter was not just an excellent composer, but he was a prophet, too.
These lyrics were perfect in 1934, and they’re just as perfect today.
Joel Grey does the intro, and our star is just about out of breath near the end of this exciting dance number.
In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
was looked on as something shocking.
Now heaven knows, anything goes.
Good authors too who once knew better words,
now only use four-letter words writing prose,
The world has gone mad today,
and good´s bad today, and black´s white today,
and day´s night today,
When most guys today that women prize today
are just silly gigolos.
So though I´m not a great romancer,
I know that you´re bound to answer
when I propose, anything goes.
And yes, Sutton Foster was the winner of Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for ‘Anything Goes.’
Cole Porter (1891-1964)