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

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.

CD Review: John Vanore, "Primary Colors"

Trumpeter, Composer, Producer, Educator and Bandleader John Vanore has just released a long-forgotten studio recording of a duet he reco...