Monday, December 28, 2009

Sinatra Live!



Happy New Year to all! Since this is my first posting for the New Year and New Decade, I thought I would share my thoughts on a new CD box set of some old but newly released Frank Sinatra live recordings. I was lucky enough to receive this new 4 CD set of Sinatra live performances as a Christmas present. The performances were at the following locations:

CD 1. Manhattan Center, February 3, 1955 with Tommy Dorsey and the United Nations, September 13, 1963
CD 2. Carnegie Hall, April 8, 1974

CD3. Madison Square Garden, October 12, 1974

CD4. Carnegie Hall, June 1984

The set also includes a DVD of Frank's performance at: Carnegie Hall, June 25, 1980

Let me start this review by saying that I already have all of the songs on these CDs and DVDs in my Sinatra library so why would anyone want more Sinatra performances of these same songs? The answer is: "What you get in this new collection are "live" performances of these songs that have never been available before".   Most Sinatra fans know that for the most part, the recordings he made in record studios are as near perfect as one can get. It's a different story with these "Live" performances. In my opinion, these songs allow the listener to capture the emotional experience of the Sinatra personality that no studio recording can ever do. It's Sinatra at his performance best. The sound quality of some of the recordings are sometimes less than great but the emotional connection with Sinatra, the lyrics and music more than make up for the audio inconsistencies. In my opinion, this collection opens the door for old and new Sinatra fans to meet the real Sinatra and discover the reason why almost 10 years after his death, his music is still being played and treasured by millions of fans.

The DVD of his Carnegie Hall performance on June 25, 1980 might very well capture Sinatra at his very best moment-in-time in my opinion. For me, watching and listening to this DVD performance transmits emotional ties from the singer to the listener.

If you are a Sinatra fan, this collection needs to be in your home.

I thought some of the Sinatra fans out there might be interested in a painting done by "The Chairman" himself. This is one of 100 prints that Sinatra personally signed a few years before his death.
He named this painting "Witchcraft". Works for me!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Greatest Performed Holiday Songs Of The Last Decade


In my last post, we listed the "Five Greatest Christmas Songs Ever Written" and a recent report from The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) listed the 25 most performed ASCAP songs of the decade, and I thought this list would be of interest to readers of this blog. The report from ASCAP also listed the songwriter credits and the most popular played version. As I reviewed the list, I have to admit that it was somewhat sad to see that "White Christmas" the favorite of both mine, Zelda and millions of other lovers of the Great American Songbook has fallen to 6th place according to the ASCAP report. All I can say is that just because a Christmas song is played a lot does not automatically make it the best song of all times. That's my story, and I am sticking to it. I found the most popular artists of these songs interesting as some of the more popular current singers have claimed some of the old favorites. Also interesting is that Johnny Marks is the writer with the most songs on the top 25 list with three, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas". Well, here is the "Ten most performed Christmas songs of the last decade:

1. Winter Wonderland
Written by: Felix Bernard, Richard B Smith
Performed by: Eurythmics

2. The Christmas Song
Written by: Mel Torme', Robert Wells
Performed by: Nat King Cole

3. Sleigh Ride
Written by: Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish
Performed by: The Ronettes

4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Written by: Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin
Performed by: The Pretenders

5. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Written by: Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie
Performed by: Bruce Springsteen

6. White Christmas
Written by: Irving Berlin
Performed by: Bing Crosby

7. Let It Snow!
Written by: Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne
Performed by: Michael Buble'

8. Jingle Bell Rock
Written by Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe
Performed by: Daryl Hall & John Oates

9. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Written by: Johnny Marks
Performed by: Gene Autry

10. Little Drummer Boy
Written by: Katherine K. Davis, Henry V. Onorati, Harry Simeone
Performed by: The Harry Simeone Chorale & Orchestra

Saturday, December 19, 2009

THE 5 BEST CHRISTMAS SONGS OF ALL TIMES


Well, it's the Saturday before Christmas, and I am sitting at home in New Jersey watching what is forecast to be one of the biggest snow storms of the year! I wanted to write at least one post about Christmas songs because you can't go very far at this time of year without hearing some of your old and new Christmas favorites.

But First, I wanted to talk about an observation that has been driving me crazy for years. Why is it that whenever the weather forecast is for bad weather especially snow, every senior citizen and his brother runs out to the grocery store to buy every roll of toilet paper they can find along with every loaf of bread and bottle of milk available. I have actually seen some of these seniors going from store to store because it seems they just can't get enough toilet paper to satisfy their needs. Does bad weather cause these people to get a serious case of the runs? What the hell is going on with all this toilet paper? I'm a senior and I must be missing something here. If these toilet paper junkies think that every storm could mean the end of the world, wouldn't you think they would be out buying other things like cases of VODKA? Well there you have it. I feel better, and now we can proceed to the "The 5 Best Christmas Songs Of All Times".
It's always been the dream of all song writers and singers to have the next great Christmas song on their resume', but only a few actually have found success. This thought brought me to ponder the following question:

"If you could only hear 5 Christmas song during the entire Christmas season, what would they be?". We all have our favorites, but picking the top 5 of all times is another more difficult task. Well here my list:

1. White Christmas: Written by the great Irving Berlin in 1940. According to Songfacts.com, this song is the biggest selling Christmas song of all time. An interesting story that is told about this song is that Mr. Berlin wrote this song in 1940 while staying at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. The story goes on to say that Mr. Berlin, upon finishing this song, told his secretary, "I just wrote the best song I've ever written". I don't know if this story is true or not, but the statement certainly is!

2. The Christmas Song: Written by Mel Torme & Bob Wells in 1944.

3. I'll Be Home For Christmas: Written by Buck Ram, Kim Connor & Walter Kent in 1943.

4. Let It Snow: Written by Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne in 1945.

5. Winter Wonderland: Written by Richard B. Smith & Felix Bernard in 1934

Did I miss one that you think should be in the top 5?

Merry Christmas Everybody!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dave Koz Rocks The House In Morristown Community Theatre


This week I had the pleasure of attending the "Dave Koz & Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas Show" at the Community Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey. This is the third time, I believe, Dave has performed his Christmas show at the Community Theatre and his show just keeps getting better and better. Dave is always the professional, always prepared and always surrounded by outstanding musicians. This is no accident, Dave is a real perfectionist and once his show starts, it never stops rocking. If there is a better sax player in the country today than Dave Koz, then I am yet to hear him. His performance was just outstanding and what a pleasure to hear some of the old chestnut Christmas songs played in fresh new and innovative arrangements. If you have never had a chance to see Dave in person, you should try to see him on one of his tour dates. You can find out where he will be on his web site: davekoz.com

Dave had some outstanding musical friends supporting him starting with the great pianist and composer David Benoit. David can do it all, Classical, Jazz and Pop and he plays with Dave like they are musical twins.  No matter what they play, they fit together like fingers in a glove.

Personally, I was unprepared for Rick Braun and his work with the trumpet. He has done a lot of great work, but I have never had the pleasure of hearing him perform, and he was great. This concert was billed as Smooth Jazz but it was more like one big Jazz session for me.

The guitarist was Peter White and again his interpretation of the songs he presented was just about perfect. Peter has a great feel for songs and lyrics. He proves again that the great instrumentalists can play a melody with such understanding and emotion that even though there are no lyrics involved, the audience can feel the meaning of the music.

Brenda Russell a very talented singer-songwriter handled the vocals and fit the personality of the other members of the group perfectly. Brenda provided her own unique approach to several songs and was aided and surrounded by the great cast of musical characters.

The show was sold, out and it was clear that many members of the audience were long-time fans of Dave Koz and with good reason. Just a great show from beginning to end!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Open Letter To The US Music Industry: Susan Boyle New Album Proves Fans Will Still Buy Shrink-Wrapped CD's


According to the December 3, 2009 article in the New York Times by Ben Sisario, last week was a very interesting week for the Music Industry. Never mind that Ms Boyle's CD, "I Dreamed a Dream" sold 701,000 copies making it the biggest opening week sales for any CD this year, the real news for me was that only 6% of the sales were digital downloads.  This is far below the ratio of the sales standards shrink-wrapped CDs compared to digital purchases from sources like iTunes.

This is the same experience I have had with friends and family who love the "Great American Songbook" but have trouble or can't get to my blog. It still surprises me about how many people I meet in the 50 to 70 age group who spend either very little time or no time at all on a computer. I find most of these people get to their type of music by radio or when one of their friends recommends a new CD to them. This of course is a problem for the "Great American Songbook" and its performers because of the lack of exposure they get to their prime audience. This situation is also a problem for the music industry because the industry has not come up with a way to reach what I feel is a large untapped audience. The industry has had some successes when major performers decide to cut CDs containing great standard songs. But these CDs only seem to sell when they are made by big time entertainers who can bring his or her audience anywhere they decide to go.

XM Radio has given many mature listeners the ability to hear the great songs in their cars. I suspect that many of these listeners would never have signed up to get XM Radio on their own, but because the service was free for a couple of months in most new cars, they got to experience it and I believe they quickly came to love the stations that play the standards.

This mature group of listeners also does not, for the most part, own Ipods. It's not that they would not enjoy listening to one, they just don't embrace the technology and seem to be reluctant to go there. I recently went to a friend's 65 birthday party. My friend just loves Frank, Tony and the rest of the gang along with a lot of other new performers, but he just wanted no part of an Ipod. He also spends no time on a computer. He seemed to think it was too complicated for him. I decided to give him an Ipod for his birthday and I downloaded a lot of songs that I knew he loved. I can only tell you that he is now never without his Ipod playing in his ear. He loves it crazy and will never give it up.

It's my feeling that the music industry can to do a much better job in marketing to niche audiences like the ones I have described in this posting in order to stop the slide in their sales.  The audience for the "Great American Songbook" is out there, they love this type of music, and they will buy a lot of shrink-wrapped CDs because they like to be able to touch the product and take the music with them.  Hello! the last time I looked, shrink-wrapped CDs was where the big money was!


Monday, November 30, 2009

It Never Entered My Mind


I wanted to talk a little about a great song that did not make our Top 20 List. The song is, "It Never Entered My Mind"written by Rodgers and Hart in 1940 for the musical, "Higher and Higher". The lyrics of this song tell a story about lost love that can be reduced to the saying, "You don't know how good you have it today until you lose it tomorrow"! This is such an outstanding song and it's been covered by just about everyone. However, I would like to recommend the 3 covers I have listed below to experience the song at its very best.

The first cover is by the great Marian McPartland. She delivers the melody with such emotional understanding of the lyric, you will almost forget she is only playing the melody.

The second cover is by the great Nancy Wilson. You can actually feel the pain of the lyrics through the picture Nancy paints when she sings. Even though almost everything Nancy Wilson sings is outstanding, I think she is at her very best on this cover.

The third cover is by the great Miles Davis at a time in his career when I think he was doing his very best work. His voice is his trumpet, and he is also able to project the emotional sadness of this song without the aid of any lyric.

So there it is! Three covers from a piano, a voice and a trumpet and they all fit together like a glove. Enjoy!

Are There Any Young Singers Covering The Great American Songbook?


The other day I ran into my old friend Bill who loves the singers and songs from the Great American Songbook. In the course of our conversation, he lamented that there are so few young singers today that are recording "Our Songs" anymore. I suggested a few names of young singers he should look at and wanted to list some of these relatively new singers in no particular order for the benefit of my other readers.
PS: Say hello to the Music Man Pup, Harley!

Harry Connick, Jr
Michael Buble'
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
John Pizzarelli
Karrin Allyson
Madeleine Peyroux
Jane Monheit
Maude Maggart
Jessica Molaskey



Monday, November 23, 2009

The American Music Awards


I viewed the American Music Awards last night and want to make a few comments. First, after comparing all the new "talent" that was on display last night, it is clear that Michael Jackson has become for today's music generation what Elvis was to the Rock and Roll generation. From a strict talent perspective, sadly, I did not see anyone on the stage last night that has the talent to come anywhere close to Michael.  He was one of a kind.

What I saw last night was mostly a lot of stage performers using lights, sounds, noise and fire to overwhelm the music being sung and played. A lot of it may have been entertaining but where were the great songs and lyrics that will be with us for the next 100 years? Where was the next group of great singers that will be with us for the next 50 years? Yes, I believe we must allow the freedom to experiment with new forms of music but that doesn't mean we need or should turn our backs on the music and lyrics that brought us to the dance.

That said, I did see some singers last night that have the potential to become really great. I know that if they set their focus on some of the great songs of even the past 25 years they could achieve a much higher level of professional, long-term status. One last comment, there are some excellent young singers out there today doing great things but only a couple found a place on the American Music Awards. All and all, a lost opportunity for the music industry to showcase the really talented people that are making memorable music that will last much longer than the time this award show was on TV.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

R & B or Pure Blues or Good Old Rock & Roll


Last month I started a working-list of the "Top 20 Greatest R & B Songs" and I have spent a lot of time trying to sort out what should be on or off the list. Quite frankly after much effort, I have made no progress on this project. The problem, as I see it, is there are too many songs to cover on this subject and they fall into R & B, Pure Soul and Good Old Rock & Roll. Many cross a couple of lines, and there so many outstanding candidates that I find it impossible to cull the list. If Blues67 or The Bassman want to come up with lists of their own, I would be glad to put them up on the blog. If I do get any clarity in this area, I will hold the door open for another attempt.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Top 10 Greatest Women Singers Of The Great American Songbook


Here are some of the prospects for this class. I would like to start this post by defending one of the women singers that I have put on the list because I would guess that many readers will disagree on this choice. The singer in question is Diana Krall. Diana Krall is one of the youngest singers on the list and probably the singer with the smallest body of work. That aside, it's my opinion that what we have with Diana is a singer that will rise to be one of the greatest American women singers by the time her career is finished. She will also be considered one of the best piano players of our times. Give it some thought!

The 19 Greatest Women Singers Of All Times (In no particular order)

1. Doris Day
2. Nancy Wilson
3. Judy Garland
4. Peggy Lee
5. Lena Horn
6. Sarah Vaughn
7. Etta James
8. Rosemary Clooney
9. Jo Stafford
10. Diana Krall
11. Dinah Washington
12. Carly Simon
13. Linda Ronstadt
14. Melissa Manchester
15. Billy Holiday
16. Barbra Streisand
17. Celine Dion
18. Ella Fitzgerald
19. Linda Eder

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dinner With Sinatra: The Top 10 Greatest Male Singers of the Great American Songbook



I am working on a Top 10 Greatest Male and Female Singers of The Great American Songbook and, of course, The Chairman of The Board will be on it. I wanted to share one of my Frank Sinatra stories with you as I prepare to list him as my first entry. About 20 years ago during one of my first visits to the Palm Springs area, my wife and I decided to try to find a good local restaurant for dinner. We were staying in the Rancho Mirage area so we started to drive on Route 111 where we knew there were lots of interesting looking restaurants. It was early, about 6:30, so we knew we would be able to get into most places. As we were driving, we noticed an interesting-looking restaurant on Route 111 West. I don't remember the name, but I do remember it was an Italian restaurant with a Southwestern feel. As we made the turn into the driveway along the side of the restaurant, a green Jaguar pulled in front of us. We were the only two cars that pulled up, and as I looked at the license plate it read, "FAS". I laughed and said to my wife that maybe it was Frances Albert Sinatra. To our surprise, as we got out of our car, Sinatra himself steps out of the Jag at the same time. Luckily, the valet was not around, and I walked up to Frank and thanked him for all the pleasure his music had given us over the years. Sinatra was in a very good mood and as we talked, I asked him if this was one of his favorite restaurants since we were new to the area. He told us it was, and that he often orders take out from this place for himself and any parties at his home. He then offered that he was here tonight to celebrate Gregory Peck's birthday with many of his closest friends. With that the valet appeared, and he went in and we followed right behind him. When we got to the front desk, the reception person asked if we had a reservation, and I told him we were here for the Gregory Peck birthday party. This ends the story because that's when the reception person said, "Not in your dreams".  He did, however, seat us next to the Peck birthday party room. It was such a thrill to have been in the same restaurant with Sinatra, the entire Rat Pack and about 20 of the biggest Hollywood Stars of the day. We may not have gotten into the party but, boy, what great story value. By the way, if anyone remember this restaurant, I would love to know the name.


Candidates For "The 10 GREATEST MALE SINGERS Of The Great American Songbook"

1. Frank Sinatra
2. Bing Crosby
3. Bobby Darin
4. Johnny Hartman
5. Mel Torme
6. Andy Williams
7. Lou Rawls
8. Tony Bennett
9. Johnny Mathis
10. Jack Jones
11. Vic Damone
12. Fred Astaire
13. Billy Eckstine
14. Michael Buble'
15. Robert Goulet
16. Dean Martin
17. Nat King Cole

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Top 20 Greatest American Standard Love Songs Ever Written

It's time to update the "Top 20 Greatest American Standards Ever Written" based on reader input during the last month. Here are the changes:

Off the list:
1. Lush Life
2. This Bitter Earth
3. I Can't Get Started
4. It Never Entered My Mind
5. As Time Goes By




New On The List:
1. They Can't Take That Away From Me: George & Ira Gershwin
2. At Last: Mack Gordon & Harry Warren
3. All My Tomorrows: Jimmy Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn
4. In The Still Of The Night: Cole Porter
5. The Way You Look Tonight:Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields

20 GREATEST AMERICAN STANDARDS
1. The Nearness of You
2. Here's That Rainy Day
3. Embraceable You
4. My Funny Valentine
5. What's New
6. The Very Thought Of You
7. Body and Soul
8. You've Changed
9. I've Got You Under My Skin
10. In The Still Of The Night
11. Over The Rainbow
12. Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered
13. Someone To Watch Over Me
14. Night And Day
15. At Last
16. They Can't Take That Away From Me
17. All My Tomorrows
18. All The Things You Are To Me
19. Misty
20. The Way You Look Tonight

Monday, November 2, 2009

Special Voices And Special Songs


One of the music activities I really love is to spend time developing playlists. To the novice this may seem like an easy project and it is if all one does is put 15 songs they like on a playlist and then burn a CD. However, the real pleasure of coming up with an outstanding playlist is to not only pick singers and songs that fit with a theme but also make sure that all the songs work well together. It's like painting a picture, just a whole mess of brush strokes in different colors but when it all works together a masterpiece is born.

I have several playlists that I think really work, and I will share some of them with you from time to time. This is my first playlist of what I believe are Special Voices and Special Songs. Enjoy!

A Song For You, Leon Russell

Have I Told You Lately, Van Morrison

Georgia On My Mind, Steve Tyrell

The Long And Winding Road, Ray Charles & The Count Basie Orchestra

I Wanna Be Around, Peggy Lee

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, Elton John

Tightrope, Leon Russell

Moondance, Van Morrison

Lover Man, Patti LaBelle

Since I Lost My Baby, Michael McDonald

You've Changed, Eva Cassidy

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, Ray Charles & Elton John

Somebody's Baby, Jackson Brown

Baby I'm Amazed, Paul McCartney

Feel So Bad, Ray Charles & The Count Basie Orchestra

How Am I Supposed To Live Without You, Michael Bolton

Bright Side Of The Road, Van Morrison

You Don't Know Me, Ray Charles & Diana Krall

Hold On My Heart, Genesis

These songs run for 1:17:22 total time and will fit on one CD.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Can Anyone Give Me A Good Working Definition of "Rhythm and Blues"?


My last posting on this blog was, Top 20 R & B Songs Of All Times". When I first published this article, I had entitled it, " Top 20 Blues Songs Of All Times". However, after some thought I changed "Blues" back to "R & B" because it seemed to cover a broader area than limiting us to just the "Blues" genre. Since the last blog was published, I have had many discussions with several music buffs including, The Bassman who made it clear to me that there is a lot of confusion and different opinions floating around as to exactly what the term "Rhythm and Blues" means today.

First, I want to make it clear that I do not consider myself qualified as a Blues or Rhythm and Blues expert. But I do have an interest in this area and have done some reading on the topic so maybe we can get a better handle on this category by learning and sharing information together.

From what I can determine, The Blues was mostly born from southern black jazz musicians in the early 1900s. It was truly an American art form that eventually traveled from the deep South to the North and the rest of the US by black workers who moved North to find a better way of life. From a technical point of view, the Blues does have its own musical form but that became blurred as more and more Blues music started to emerge on the American scene. In the late 1940s, The Blues was still mainly owned by black American jazz performers but was starting to be noticed by white performers and the powerful white-controlled music industry. I would guess that those music executives were somewhat confused by this black form of music because, while it may have started with the Blues, it was expanding into other musical forms. Since most of this music was still coming out of the black community, the term Rhythm and Blues came into use to cover most musical recordings being marketed to black Americans.

As time passed, there were a few major changes in the term Rhythm and Blues that are important in understanding how it got to its present form. In the late 1950s, the black musicians playing and singing Rhythm and Blues provided the foundation for the development of the Rock and Roll movement in the US.   It was during this period in the late 1950s and early 1960s that many white Americans "rediscovered" Rhythm and Blues and the black performers who were singing these exciting songs. Suddenly, white groups were beginning to play and record this style of music with great popular success. The development continued into the 1970s with "Gospel", "Soul" and "Funk" being added to the category. The next change occurred in the 1990s when R & B became part of pop rock music.

So..... now it is clear to me and also should be to you, why it is so difficult to pin down the songs that belong in this category. The songs include Blues, Gospel, Soul, Funk and Popular Rock. It seems to me that there probably is a different correct list for each listener.

One thing I have not mentioned is that with the Blues, there is a certain life experience or emotion present that I believe make up the mainstay of R & B, and I will make an effort to list those songs. This will take some time so I am open to all suggestions while we construct the list.

PS: In looking for information on this topic, I came across a cool blog, Shades of Blue that you might want to visit. The site location is: http://www.rhythmandtheblues.org.uk/public/shadeshistory . It's worth a look.

Friday, October 23, 2009

TOP 20 R & B Songs of All Times (1st Draft)


OK here are the first possible candidates for the Top 20 R & B songs list that we are developing in random order :

Ain't That A Shame, Fats Domino

Long Tall Sally, Little Richard

Gee Whiz! (Look at His Eyes). Carla Thomas

Lay Down Sally, Eric Clapton

Stand By Me. Ben E King 1961

Stormy Monday, T. Bone Walker 1947

The Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King

What's Going On, Marvin Gaye

The Long and Winding Road, Beatles

Me & Mrs Jones, Billy Paul

Soul Man, Sam & Dave

Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan

Busted, Ray Charles

Respect, Aretha Franklin

Layla, Derek and the Dominos

What'd I Say, Ray Charles

Lite My Fire, The Doors

When A Man Loves A Women, Percy Sledge

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, James Brown

I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye

Papa Was A Rollin" Stone, The Temptations

Boom, Boom, John Lee Hooker

Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin

It's Your Thing, The Isley Brothers

Good Man, Good Woman, Delbert McClinton

Everyday I Have The Blues, Joe Williams

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, Elton John

Let The Good Times Roll, Tony Bennett & B. B. King

Good Morning Heartache, Gladys Knight

At Last, Etta James

This Bitter Earth, Gladys Knight

Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Barry White

Love Me Like A Man, Bonnie Raitt

Ain't No Sunshine, Bill Withers

Feel So Bad, Ray Charles

Baby I Am Amazed, Paul MeCartney

Why Me, Delbert McClinton

Never Been Rocked Enough, Delbert McClinton

I'm In Love Again, Fats Domino

Maybe, The Chantels

Sunshine of Your Love, Cream





Well there it is. There are a lot of potential great Blues songs out there and I am sure my readers will come up with many more before we attempt to name the Top 20.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Additional New American Standards Candidates

Here are a few more candidates to consider:

The Summer Knows: Released 1971 by Michel Legrand

Your Song: Released 1970 by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Arthur's Theme: Released 1981 by Christopher Cross, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer, Peter Allen

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Artist Spotlight: Jack Jones, Still Performing Better Than Ever!


Last winter when I was in the desert, I noticed that Jack Jones was performing at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert celebrating 50 years in show business and his 72nd birthday. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the concert due to other commitments but reading about the show did start me thinking about Jack Jones. I had lost track of his performing career and started to do some research as to where and what he was doing over the past years. I first saw Jack performing in Vegas in 1965, a long time ago for both of us! It turned out that Jack Jones lives in the desert. His youngest daughter, Nicole, is attending Palm Desert High School and also has her dad's love of performing. Nicole gets to perform with her dad during school breaks and has also appeared in some stage productions in the Palm Springs area. I also learned that Jack has been a long time supporter of the McCallum Theatre. This is an outstanding performing arts facility that brings outstanding talent to the desert every year.

It turns out that Jack has recorded over 50 albums, and I am sad to say that I am not familiar with most of them. However, I intend to give some of his more recent CDs a hearing over the next few months. The first CDs I want to listen to are "Jack Jones Paints A Tribute To Tony Bennett" and "New Jack Swing".

I have been enjoying a lot of Jack Jones songs recently being played on the XM Radio Sinatra station. I can't believe all the great songs Jack has recorded that were somehow overlooked by me. This just reminds me again why I am writing this blog. It's really an enjoyable effort on my part discovering all of the outstanding music and singers that I have missed over the past years. In the process, I hope I can help other music lovers share the new gems I discover.

By the way, Jack Jones will be performing at McCallum again this winter on Saturday January 9, 2010 at 8pm. Do yourself a favor, and if you are in the Palm Springs area, make sure you catch his show. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, October 16, 2009

20 Top (New) American Standards-Revised 10/16/09

I have checked out the dates that the current "prospects" were written and thought we should list the composer also.

The Shadow of Your Simile: Released in 1965 by Johnny Mandel & Paul Webster (Won the Grammy award for "Song Of The Year" and also the Academy Award for Best Original Song in the movie "The Sandpiper")

Something: Released in 1969 by George Harrison

Evergreen: Released in 1976 by Barbara Streisand & Paul Williams

How Do You Keep the Music Playing: Released in 1982 by Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman

Yesterday: Released in 1965 by Paul McCartney ( One of the most covered pop songs of all times with over 3,000 recorded versions)

Just the Way You Are: Released in 1977 by Billy Joel

Send in the Clowns: Released in 1973 by Stephen Sondheim

If I Ruled the World: Released in 1963 by Leslie Bricusse & Cyril Ornadel

What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life: Released in 1969 by Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman

The Wind Beneath My Wings: Released in 1988 by Jeff Silbar & Larry Henley

New York, New York: Released in 1977 by John Kander & Fred Ebb

Sunday, October 11, 2009

20 Top (New) American Standards

I want to start to develop the list of the new standards. They must be less than 50 years old.
Top Candidates in no particular order
The Shadow Of Your Smile
Imagine
Evergreen
How Do You Keep The Music Playing
Yesterday
Just The Way You Are
Send In The Clowns
If I Ruled The World
What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life
Something
The Wind Beneath My Wings
New York, New York
I Left My Heart In San Francisco (Written in 1954, released by Bennett in 1962)

This is the start of the candidates. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Number 1 Song In Great American Songbook

The Number one song in the Great American Songbook on my list is, "The Nearness Of You". This song was written by Hoagy Carmichael & Ned Washington in 1937. Before I comment on why this song is ranked above all others, let's talk about the common denominators that we can find in most Great American Standard songs. First and foremost, most of these songs are about romance and love, either finding it or losing it or somewhere in between. In the Top 20, 7 songs are about love lost and its pain and 13 songs are about love in bloom. I thought that talking about love and romance was pretty out of fashion with today's younger generation. However, every now and then I am surprised to find some younger people who actually like to listen to these great songs and lyrics. I suspect that there are a lot more people out there who, once exposed to these great songs, would sign on as fans.

I believe that in order to truly appreciate these love songs, you need to bring some life experience with you. I have always loved Sinatra, but as my life experiences increased, my appreciation for how the "Chairman of  the Board" approached a lyric also increased. Any singer can sing these songs, but when Sinatra sang, you could tell he was just not singing words, he was living the words. It's the same with us and our love of these great songs. We feel the love, we feel the pain and suffering, we feel the joy of loving someone both "Body and Soul".

The key that makes " The Nearness of You" so great is it's just a basic love song. It just tells the listener a love story pure and simple. Its lyrics can stand on their own and so can the melody. That's way this song is so popular with both singers and instrumentalists. It's just a great, simple love song. I am sure some of you reading this could add why the musical construction makes this all possible but for me the purity of the lyrics and melody is the only story I need.

Almost every major singer and instrumentalist has covered this song, but I have listed those that I think handle the song the best.

1. Norah Jones could well have the best recording of this song for my taste. This is surprising for me because there are very few of her recordings that I like, and, yet, I have her at the top of my list for this song. This is why you need to have an open mind when listening to music.

2. David Campbell is a singer from Australia who is not too well known in the US I got to see him In New York and he is a great singer. I don't think he ever got the right exposure here, but he is still recording in Australia and still comes to the US. He covered "The Nearness Of You" and blended it with the Sondheim terrific show tune, "Not A Day Goes By" on his "Taking The Wheel" CD. It's just outstanding and hope you can find it. Best place to find it is on iTunes.

3. Chris Botti recorded this song on his recent CD, "When I Fall In Love".

4. Check out older outstanding covers by Johnny Hartman, Jo Stafford and Oscar Peterson.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Top 20 Greatest New American Standards

Hey, I need some help. I have spent a lot of time on the Top 20 all-time greatest standards but need some help selecting potential new song candidates for the list of New American standard candidates. By new I mean in order to qualify for this list, the songs would have to be less than 50 years old. If you have any favorites, let me know.

WHO IS THE BEST JAZZ PIANIST PLAYING TODAY?

Interesting question now that the Great Oscar Peterson has moved on into the Jazz Band in the sky. My answer to this question might surprise some of you. In my opinion, one of the top 5 candidates has to include Diana Krall. Yes, Diana is best known for her singing, but if you need some persuading, listen to some of her cuts on her CD, "Live In Paris" recorded in 2002 in Paris. This CD, that I think might have been overlooked by some who did not know Diana back then, gives an excellent preview of how multi-talented she is. Her treatment of the standards on the CD are fresh and border on brilliance. Combine this with her piano playing with what can only be described as an outstanding group of sidemen, and you have the making of a classic CD. The CD was recorded live in Paris, the 2nd home of American Jazz. When you listen to the cuts, notice the excitement and appreciation of the French audience. Take special note of Diana's playing on:

1. I Love Being Here With you

2. Deed I Do

3. Devil May Care

By the way, the work of the bassist, John Clayton, is as good as it gets! Now that Ray Brown has left us, John has stepped up and taken his place among the best of the best bassists playing today.

As a side note, Diana has just produced and played on the new Barbra Streisand CD, "Love Is The Answer" that was arranged by the great Johnny Mandel. I ask you, if Barbra Streisand agrees to have Diana Krall produce and play on her new CD, doesn't that tell you how much the real professionals think about her work today?

Bottom line is that Diana Krall has taken a permanent place among the Best of the Best playing and singing standards today. She can do it all and does!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Top 20 Greatest American Standards Ever Written

OK, I'll go first and rank my list of the 20 Greatest American Standards ever written. All I ask, in return, is some input from you about songs I have missed and changes in rank from your point of view. If you think this is an easy task, just try putting your list of 20 together.

First, let's set one ground rule, in order to be considered for the list the song must be 50 years old. In my way of thinking, if a song was written over 50 years ago and is still in demand today, that qualifies it as an American Standard Evergreen. Later when I get some time, we can start to develop a list of songs written less than 50 years ago that might be the American Standards of tomorrow.

20 Greatest American Standards
1. The Nearness of You
2. You've Changed
3. Here's That Rainy Day
4. What's New
5. The Very Thought of You
6. Body and Soul
7. My Funny Valentine
8. Embraceable You
9. I've Got You Under My Skin
10. Someone To Watch Over Me
11. Over The Rainbow
12. Misty
13. All The Things You Are To Me.
14. Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered
15. It Never Entered My Mind
16. Night and Day
17. As TIme Goes By
18. I Can't Get Started
19. Lush Life
20. This Bitter Earth

Well, there is my list, subject to immediate change if some of you can come up with better selections and rankings!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Quest for the 20 Greatest Songs Ever Written Begins

It's late Sunday afternon in January in the California desert. No, on reflection, it's a perfect Sunday late afternoon in Rancho Mirage, Ca. The weather is warm, dry and the air is clean and clear. We are out for Sunday dinner at a local restaurant, The Blu Embers. We saw an ad in the Desert Sun Newspaper that they were having late afternoon dining outside with live music. Over the past 15 years, we have learned that the California desert for professional musicians is very much like the place where,"Elephants go to live out the last part of their lives". If you like great live music, this is the place to be in the winter, no question about it. It's one of the principal reasons we love to come to the desert. The fact that the weather in winter is warm and sunny, of course, is no small consideration.

As the sun sets and we are seated outside sipping our glass of wine, we both realize, life just doesn't get any better than this.

Suddenly, the small 4-piece band starts playing and they get my full attention immediately. The leader of the group is a trumpet player dressed in black named Steve Madaio and the songs and sounds were a delight. The songs they were playing were mostly current popular tunes that sounded great. I became fascinated with the soft and personal sound coming from Steve's trumpet. At one point in the evening, Steve starts to talk about a song that is an old standard and is his number 3 on his "Top Ten" list of the best standards ever written. I leaned over and said to my wife, I bet it's "What's New". Sure enough, it was "What's New", written in 1939 by Bob Haggart & Johnny Burke that has been on my "Top Ten" list for a long time, but I did not have it in the 3rd spot. I guessed that this was his number 3 song on his list of all time best songs because his trumpet style would be perfect for this song. After the band's 2nd set, I went up to Steve and told him how impressed I was with his song selection and his outstanding trumpet performance. I told him about guessing that his number 3 song was going to be "What's New" and that I had been working on my list of greatest songs for years. We talked for a short time. After the next set, Steve came over to our table and asked if he could sit and talk with us for a while. He wanted to talk some more about the greatest songs ever written, and we did. This meeting of chance happened three years ago and Steve and I have been friends ever since. As we left the restaurant, I told Steve that I would burn a play list of my top 20 greatest songs by rank and would give him the CD at our next visit. Steve later related to me that he never expected to see me again no less get the CD because many customers have made comments to him about favorite songs but the discussion usually ended at closing time, never to be followed up again.

Two weeks later, we were back at Blu Embers to hear Steve. We said hello but I was not sure he would remember me. To my surprise, after the first break he came over and sat with us. That's when I pulled out the play list I had made for him and he was absolutely blown away. Of the 20 greatest standard songs I listed, 17 of them were also on Steve's list. The conversation then launched into a discussion of my rankings compared to his.

Ever since this meeting, Steve has been putting more discussion of the "Top Ten" greatest songs into his act and receiving great interest from his audiences. Since that evening, Steve and I have spent endless hours of time talking about great songs and great artists. This encounter was was the major reason why I started this blog .

My next blog will put forth my list of the "Top Twenty" greatest songs ever written. My hope is that you will share your ideas of what songs should be on the list and in what position.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Purpose of This Blog

The Music Man Blog is committed to providing a common meeting place where like-minded music lovers can share information and increase the joy and ecstasy of music and the melodies, lyrics and performers who brought us to the party. While the mainstay topic will always be a focus on the Great American Songbook, we will also share information on contributions by great performers to standards, as well as new songs that could become the new standards for the younger generation. Along the way, we will also be covering other aspects of the music business including reviews of current live performances, new and old CDs, new songs and some of my personal experiences.

The Great American Songbook is a collection of songs written by American songwriters over the past 100 years. These songs are often referred to as "Standards" or the term I like is "Evergreens"; "Evergreens" because these songs never get old. They come back to life every time an artist creates his or her own interpretation. We also will have some fun ranking the best of the best of singers and instrumentalists.

CD Review: Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra, "Without A Trace"

OK big band fans, I know I have featured a lot of Vocalists lately, so I have a present for you.     Composer, Trombonist, Arranger, Aut...