RECORDING OF THE MONTH
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Porgy and Bess (1935): Overture; Summertime; It Ain’t
Necessarily So; I Loves You Porgy.
Other Songs: Medley* (But Not For Me; Love is Here to Stay;
Embraceable You; Someone to Watch Over Me); Sweet and Low-Down+;
Fascinating Rhythm*; Do It Again+; My Man’s Gone Now*;
Medley* (The Man I Love;* Nice Work If You Can Get It; They
Can’t Take That Away From Me; ’S Wonderful; Swanee;
Strike Up the Band)
Encores*: I’ve Got a Crush On You; A Foggy Day
Sarah Vaughan (vocalist)
Trio *: George Gaffney (piano): Andy Simpkins (bass); Harold Jones (drums)
Michael Tilson Thomas + (piano)
Los Angeles Philharmonic/Michael Tilson Thomas
rec. live, Dorothy Chandler Auditorium, Los Angeles, 1982
SONY CBS MASTERWORKS MK 37277 [61:11]
Back in the early 1980s towards the close of the LP era, a youthful Michael
Tilson Thomas recorded a series of albums devoted to the music of George Gershwin.
These included An American in Paris and a very special and ingenious
and vital performance of Rhapsody in Blue that had a ‘ghostly’
George Gershwin as piano soloist - or rather his performance, captured on a
1925 piano roll - with Tilson Thomas conducting the Columbia Jazz Band (CBS
76509). Another LP (M 34542) featured Tilson Thomas conducting the Buffalo Philharmonic
Orchestra in six Gershwin overtures - all performed with panache and crackling
with vitality. All of these were originally recorded on CBS Masterworks and
then reissued together in CD format in 2004 as Sony
93018. I must have played the Gershwin overtures LP dozens of times and
it has always featured very highly amongst my favourite records. Why this long
and possibly, to some, irrelevant preamble? Well, because there was another
Tilson Thomas Gershwin LP that I adored and for years wanted to regain in my
collection as a CD. I have only rediscovered on the Amazon.com site. It was
this Sarah Vaughan Gershwin Live disc and it was well worth the wait!
If you haven’t discovered the delights of this recording, then please
allow me to share them with you.
The fact that this is a live programme assures sparkle and joyous spontaneity
and doesn’t the LA Philharmonic respond so enthusiastically, really enjoy
themselves jazzing and swinging it up. The audience clearly revels in the occasion
too. The programme kicks off with a vivacious reading of the Porgy and Bess
Overture followed by Sarah Vaughan’s big smoky-voiced renditions of Bess’s
well-loved songs. Tilson Thomas’s orchestra is supported and contrasted
by the jazz Trio of Gaffney, Simpkins and Jones
The Vaughan voice is unmistakeable, idiosyncratic, sensuous and so entirely
personal in its jazzy delivery and nuances: those languid deep rolling and long-held
chords, those meaningful, often sly, sometimes ironic but jazz-rhythmic repetitions
and stresses. All the numbers listed above are delivered in Vaughan’s
glorious inimitable style.
The programme is nicely varied. There is that cheeky sexy Do It Again
- “I only met you; I shouldn’t let you ... I may say no, no, no,
no; but oh oh oh, do it again ...” - Sarah sounding so innocent yet at
the same time so street-wise. Tilson Thomas offers a piano accompaniment such
that one might imagine Gershwin himself playing to entertain friends in his
New York flat.
In contrast there is the tragedy and intense desolation that Sarah invests in
My Man’s Gone Now. Mention at this point must be made of the wonderful
sensitive orchestral arrangements for this concert by Marty Paich so rich and
extraordinarily poignant in this number.
Paich’s work shines in the 10-minute version of The Man I Love
- a veritable tour de force and one of the highlights of the album and
worth its price alone. It begins with Tilson Thomas’s Chopin-esque piano
introduction underpinning Vaughan dreamily humming before she hopes “Someday
he’ll come along ...” (to Tilson Thomas’s less than optimistic
initial answering piano chord) ... then … “I’ll do my best
to make him stay ...” at which point the orchestra enters to share that
slow swirling dream-world. The piano re-enters as she continues her reflections,
suddenly becoming much more optimistic as the Trio joins in upbeat and Sarah
is off on those jubilant, dizzy, jazzy bababibididos - presto.
A lengthy encore begins with a sensual ‘I’ve got a crrrr-u-sssshh
on You’ - “I hadn’t the least notion that I could fall with
so much emotion ...” And the whole ends with a misty dreamy evocativeA
Foggy Day (in London Town) delivered superbly by all.
A concert of Gershwin songs not to be missed.
A concert of Gershwin songs not to be missed.