|Elegance 2 - Continuing Our Musical Journey through the 30s & 40s|
Hutch: Blossoms On Broadway
Gertrude Lawrence: The Saga Of Jenny
Freddy Gardner: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Billy Ternent / Sam Browne: You Started Something
Jessie Matthews: Tony's In Town
Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli: Nuages
Turner Layton: Thanks For Everything
Elisabeth Welch: Dark Music
Joe Venuti: Body And Soul
Noel Coward: Medley- Tokay /World Weary / Caballero / Green Carnations / I'll See You Again: / Poor Little Rich Girl / Zigeuner / Dear Little Cafe / The Call Of Life / Ladies Of The Town
Nat King Cole Trio: That's The Beginning Of The End
Carroll Gibbons & His Boyfriends: Ooh! That Kiss
Ruth Etting: It's Easy To Remember
Al Bowlly / Ray Noble: I'll String Along With You
Billy Mayerl: Song Of The Fir Tree
Jack Buchanan: I'm Looking For A Melody
Elisabeth Welch: Much More Lovely
Hutch: Do I Love You?
Dorothy Carless: Autumn Nocturne
Les Paul Trio: Fine And Dandy
Fred Astaire: I Used To Be Color Blind
Adelaide Hall: As Time Goes By
Hutch: Kiss Me Goodnight
As we continue on our journey, who better to begin with than Hutch, the West Indian entertainer at the piano and a perennial favourite - the epitome of sophistication. He starts us off with a charming if little known number Blossoms On Broadway, the title song from a long forgotten 1937 Hollywood musical. Much more successful, both as a stage and film musical, was Cole Porter's 'Du Barry Was A Lady' from which we have Do I Love You? Hutch is obviously enjoying himself as his humming can be detected during the solo piano passages. Kiss Me Goodnight, the apt closing number, features Hutch with orchestral accompaniment. An in-depth biography recently published (late 1999) gives a detailed and revealing account of the life and loves of this well remembered star. A fascinating read. Another who has recently been favoured with a new biography is Billy Mayerl, represented here is his recording of Song Of The Fir Tree. This unusual but captivatingly plaintive piece is based the traditional Swedish folksong 'Ack Värmeland, Du Sköna' (as recorded by Jussi Björling and Nicolai Gedda).
Recently married to theatre owner and manager Richard Aldrich at the time this recording was made, Gertrude Lawrence shines in The Saga Of Jenny from 'Lady In The Dark'. On the show's first night, Danny Kaye had brought the house down in his rapid-fire delivery of the names of forty-nine Russian composers in thirty-nine seconds (in the song 'Tchaikovsky'). The producers and Danny were worried that the show's star might be upstaged but their fears were groundless and Gertrude topped Danny (who was relieved to keep his role).
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes brings us to the golden saxophone tones of Freddy Gardner, one of Britain's best loved and most accomplished reedsmen. Freddy first attracted attention in 1929 when, in his late teens, he won a 'Melody Maker' award. From then on, for the twenty- one years of life remaining to him, he was in great demand as a sideman, soloist and leader.
From the first recording session under his own name (and only one in the 1930s), we have Billy Ternent & His Sweet Rhythm Orchestra with the ever dependable Sam Browne in their wonderfully smooth version of You Started Something. Although influenced by the style of the American bandleader Hal Kemp, this track shows more allegiance to Guy Lombardo but without ever becoming cloying.
Jessie Matthews (1907-1981), widely regarded as the quintessential British musical star, was 29 and at the peak of her meteoric film career when she made the musical 'It's Love Again' from which she recorded Tony's In Town. In an exotic jewelled headdress, and a daringly abbreviated costume that showed off a bare waist and her magnificent legs, Jessie dances Tony's In Town to an elaborate, intricate and highly sensual tap routine, choreographed by her friend, the black choreographer Buddy Bradley, and to the vocal accompaniment of The Three Ginx. The sequence remains, even over sixty years on, one of the most dazzling moments in British film musical history. Even today, the American born Buddy Bradley's contribution to many British films and shows of the 1930s and 1940s remains vastly underrated. As well as Jessie Matthews, Bradley often arranged the dance routines for vehicles starring 'gentleman' Jack Buchanan. Such was the case with Jack's 1943 London show, 'It's Time To Dance'. I'm Looking For A Melody was the first number in this wartime musical, featuring Jack in partnership with his long-time co-star, Elsie Randolph. As things turned out, this was their last appearance together in a show, ending a highly successful 21 year association. Public reaction was very favourable, mirrored in the 'Theatre World' review which described it as "a triumphant return...The whole of the brilliant cast show an irresistibly lighthearted and pre-war touch".
The laid-back Nuages highlights the happy post-war reunion of gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli, accompanied most ably by their London based colleagues. The outbreak of war had found the Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France in London. Django quickly caught a boat back to France whereas Stephane elected to stay in the UK for the duration. 'Nuages', with words added, became quite a hit as 'It's The Bluest Kind Of Blues My Baby Sings' - but hear and enjoy it on this compilation in its original splendour.
A more consistent performer than Hutch, and certainly one who led a more conservative life style was Turner Layton. As a solo entertainer at the piano from 1935 until the end of his career in the 1960s, he recorded prolifically until the late 1940s. Society beauty Lady Diana Cooper recalled "I assume that every woman in the audience thought Turner was singing only to her", and we can catch a glimpse of what she was talking about, his sincerity if you like, in Thanks For Everything, the title song from the delightful 1938 Hollywood musical.
'Arc De Triomphe' was a musical play written by Ivor Novello (in collaboration with Christopher Hassall) in 1943 for Mary Ellis. Mary played a great French stage star through twenty turbulent years, and although the production wasn't a huge success, it included the haunting Dark Music, sung in the show by the divine Elisabeth Welch. Much More Lovely by David Heneker is Elisabeth's second contribution on this collection. This number was incorporated into an 'intimate rag' by impresario George Black which opened at London's Victoria Palace on 24 April 1941. Like Elisabeth, David is now in his nineties; his biggest successes were two musicals, 'Half A Sixpence' (1963) and 'Charlie Girl' (1965).
Usually remembered as a red-hot jazz fiddler par excellence, it could be argued that Joe Venuti (1903-1978) was somewhat in the wilderness between World War II and the late Sixties. Much of what he played during this period could be described as salon music (Stephane Grappelli went through a similar phase), but it's none the worse for that - witness his nifty small group recording of Body And Soul.
In January 1933 Noël Coward opened in New York with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in Coward's own play 'Design For Living'. Towards the end of the run, Coward took time out to participate on a double-sided twelve-inch recording of some of his 1920s compositions (well known and obscure) with Leo Reisman & His Orchestra. The numbers were from 'Bitter Sweet' and 'This Year Of Grace', except for Poor Little Rich Girl which was from 'On With The Dance' in the UK and 'Charlot's 1926 Revue' in the USA.
The intimate and timeless vocal style of Nat King Cole is well in evidence on That's The Beginning Of The End, recorded a year or two before his leap to global recognition. All the elements were there and had been for some years, just waiting for the inevitable breakthrough. Except for special occasions, the trio format was cast aside in 1952, a move which inevitably upset some of his fans. By this time he was a major star and so he remained until his early demise in 1965 at the age of forty-seven.
Carroll Gibbons & His Boyfriends, a small group of musicians from the Savoy Hotel Orpheans, made many sparkling sides during the 1930s. Here's one of their earlier recordings, Harry Warren's Ooh! That Kiss from the Broadway musical 'The Laugh Parade'.
Ruth Etting, 'America's Sweetheart Of The Air', sings It's Easy To Remember from the Hollywood musical 'Mississippi'. Ruth had a brief, but high profile career, hitting the big time in 'Ziegfeld Follies Of 1927' where she stopped the show with 'Shakin' The Blues Away'. Recordings, radio shows, film and stage appearances followed in quick profusion. Apart from a few guest appearances, she decided to retire from the scene in 1938 whilst still at the peak of her powers. Another musical film, 'Twenty Million Sweethearts' (starring Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers and capitalizing on the popularity of radio) yielded the tuneful hit song I'll String Along With You. With Ray Noble's scintillating arrangement, top flight musicians and vocalist (in Al Bowlly) the end result is something special. Little wonder America had beckoned, for within three months of this recording session, Noble and Bowlly had left the UK to seek pastures new in the USA.
In addition to singing, Dorothy Carless was also a talented pianist and comedienne. The elder sister of the late Carole Carr, she was bandleader Geraldo's favourite vocalist and sung with the band on many occasions from 1940. On Decca Records, she recorded a few titles under her own name, like the dreamy Autumn Nocturne. Now domiciled in America, Dorothy's last appearance in London was as a surprise guest at the Geraldo tribute concert staged at the Royal Festival Hall in July 1975.
Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1916, guitarist Les Paul served a useful, long apprenticeship in the 1930s and early 1940s playing a variety of styles from hillbilly music to jazz. After military service in 1944, he reformed his trio and it is from around this time that we can hear them in full flight on Fine And Dandy. Both as an inventor and a player, Les can take much of the credit for the popularization of the electric guitar. In recent years, having emerged from retirement, he has undertaken the occasional tour (with other guitarists) and played a regular gig at a New York nightclub.
Irving Berlin said he would rather have Fred Astaire sing his songs than anyone else, "He's as good as any of them...he's just as good a singer as he is a dancer - not necessarily because of his voice, but by his conception of projecting a song." We can catch a glimpse of what the composer was talking about here, in Fred's sincere and relaxed delivery of I Used To Be Colour Blind. This is from the 1938 film 'Carefree', for which Irving Berlin provided the score, and it marked the resumption of the famous Astaire/Rogers team after both stars had made a few pictures apart from each other.
A modest hit when it first appeared in 1931, the song As Time Goes By didn't attain the standing of an all-time favourite until it was sung in the 1943 film 'Casablanca' by Dooley Wilson. This romantic spy melodrama boasted Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart as its stars. Among the artists who flocked to record the song on its revival was Brooklyn born Adelaide Hall. It must have been a favourite of this much-loved entertainer as she was still featuring this song in her act when she had turned ninety.
© HUGH PALMER