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!


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...