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George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
The Authentic George Gershwin
Volumes 1-4
Jack Gibbons (piano)
Recorded St Martin’s Church, East Woodhay 1992 and 1993 (Volumes 1, 2 and 3), St George’s Brandon Hill, May 1997 (Volume 4)
SANCTUARY RESONANCE CD RSB 401-04 [4 CDs: 68.40 + 75.51 + 76.47 + 67.55]


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www.sanctuaryclassics.com

Volume 1: 1918-25
Swanee (1918)
Come to the Moon (1918)
I was so young (1918-19)
Tee-oodle-un-bum-bo (1919)
Nobody But You (1919)
Limehouse Nights (1919)
Drifting Along With The Tide (1921)
Rhapsody in Blue (adapted Gibbons ) (1924)
Oh Lady Be Good (1924)
Fascinating Rhythm (1924)
Hang On To Me (1924)
I’d Rather Charleston (London Production, 1926)
The Man I Love (1924)
The Half Of It, Dearie, Blues (1924)
So Am I (1924)
Kickin’ The Clouds Away (1925)
Concerto in F (Slow Movement – adapted Gibbons) (1925)
Volume 2: 1925-30

Sweet And Low-Down I and II (1925)
That Certain Feeling I and II (1925)
Looking For A Boy (1925)
When Do We Dance (1925)
Irish Waltz (1927)
Do, Do, Do (1926)
Someone To Watch Over Me (1926)
Clap Yo’ Hands (1926)
Maybe (1926)
Three Preludes (1927)
Meadow Serenade (1927)
My One And Only(1927)
‘S Wonderful/Funny Face (1927)
He Loves And She Loves (1927)
An American In Paris (transcribed Dal, adapted Gibbons) (1928)
Liza (1929)
Strike Up The Band (1929)
Embraceable You (1930)
I Got Rhythm I and II (1930)
Volume 3: 1931-37

Of Thee I Sing (1931)
Jilted (1931)
Second Rhapsody (arranged Gibbons) (1931)
For You, For Me. For Everyone (Op. Posth.)
Cuban Overture (arranged Gibbons) (1932)
Isn’t It A Pity (1933)
Variations on I Got Rhythm (1934)
Porgy and Bess Suite (Catfish Row ) (1936)
They Can’t Take That Away From Me (arranged Gibbons) (1936)
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off (arranged Gibbons) (1936)
Our Love Is Here To Stay (1937)
Volume 4: The Hollywood Years

Girl Crazy Overture (1930)
French Ballet Class (1936)
Dance Of The Waves (1936)
Slap That Bass (1936)
Walking The Dog (1936)
I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck (1936)
They All Laughed (1936)
They Can’t Take That Away From Me (1936)
Shall We Dance (1936)
By Strauss (1936)
I Can’t Be Bothered Now (1937)
The Jolly Tar And The Milkmaid – 2 versions (1937)
Put Me To The Test (1937)
Stiff Upper Lip (1937)
A Foggy Day (In London Town) (1937)
Nice Work If You Can Get It (1937)
Thing Are Looking Up (1937)
I Was Doing All Right (1937)
Love Walked In (1937)

Repackaged and presented as four slimline discs in a (roughly) double CD-sized slipcase, Jack Gibbons’ comprehensive Gershwin edition is back. We can argue over the provocative word Authentic if we like but it’s better to dump the semantics and listen to the music. The four discs were originally issued over a five-year period by ASV, in which form many admirers will have encountered them.

They encompass transcriptions of Gershwin’s discs and piano rolls, the latter often a minefield when it comes to matters of interpretation, though here obviously proving of inestimable value. Volume 3 centres on Gibbons’ arrangements – principally from the film music, the Catfish Row ‘Porgy and Bess’ suite, orchestrations and various works written for two pianos. The final volume is devoted to film music – The Hollywood Years.

Let me first say that the indefatigable Gibbons has explored this body of work with the sensory acuteness of a bat and the excavatory fearlessness of a Howard Carter. Nothing seems to have escaped him and he has absorbed the idiom with uncanny verisimilitude. These are generally very enjoyable discs but too much, at once, is not the way to listen. This is especially true of the first two discs which have their fair share of masterpieces but also, to be frank, one or two longeurs no matter how vivaciously Gibbons digs into them. He shows even in an early number such as the 1918-19 I was so young the full range of virtuosity in an arrangement that fuses drama with drive to considerable advantage. But it’s Drifting Along With The Tide that shows the full panoply of Gibbons’ lordly pianism – scintillating stuff. Occasionally I felt that the original ASV recording set-up wasn’t quite optimal for this type of playing. In the fourth volume for example Thy All Laughed hardens unattractively – though little can stop Things Are Looking Up from sounding chock full of lyric feeling.

It’s good to hear the piano roll adaptations as much as the vogue for Limehouse Chinoiserie. But amongst the most compelling moments are the big pieces – the Cuban Overture, Concerto in F (slow movement), Rhapsody in Blue and the Catfish Row suite. Here we hear Gibbons at his finest - if elsewhere he can tend to force the issue, to play just that slightly too hard, the larger canvases allow him greater metrical and dynamic freedoms and he utilises them appropriately.

The notes are by Gibbons – is there anything Gershwinesque to which he hasn’t turned his hand and ear? – and they cover the ground with never wearying lucidity. A fine box; maybe not always persuasive but as often as makes no difference.

Jonathan Woolf



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