Jerome KERN (1885-1945)

The Jerome Kern Treasury
The Red Petticoat: The Ragtime Restaurant (1912) [4:35]
Very Good, Eddie: Babes in the Wood (1915) [3:49]
Love o' Mike: Drift With Me (1917) [4:21]
Have a Heart: I'm So Busy (1917) [4:12]
Oh Boy!: Till the Clouds Roll By (1917) [4:39]
Zip Goes a Million: Whip-Poor-Will (1921) [4:54]
She's a Good Fellow: The Bullfrog Patrol (1919) [3:52]
Dear Sir: I Want to Be There (1924) [4:40]
Dear Sir: Wishing Well Scene (1924) [7:52]
The Cat and the Fiddle: She Didn't Say 'Yes' (1931) [3:24]
Men of the Sky: Every Little While (1931) [4:39]
Music in the Air: In Egern of the Tegern See (1932) [2:46]
Music in the Air: The Song is You (1932) [3:10]
Roberta: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (1933) [3:35]
High, Wide and Handsome: The Folks Who Live On The Hill (1937) [5:17]
Very Warm for May: Heaven In My Arms (1939) [5:23]
The Last Time I Saw Paris (1941) [4:26]
Very Warm for May: Harlem Boogie-Woogie (1939) [3:28]
George Dvorsky (tenor), Thomas Hampson (baritone), Jeanne Lehman (soprano), Rebecca Luker (soprano), Lydia Milá (soprano), Hugh Panaro (tenor)
London Sinfonietta Chorus/Terry Edwards
London Sinfonietta/John McGlinn
rec. 3-6 November 1992, Studio No. 1, Abbey Road, London, UK. Song texts not included

On their first appearance in the late 1980s and early 1990s John McGlinn’s Broadway albums were much praised by Gramophone’s Adrian Edwards and others. And rightly so, for they offer a fresh, modern take on true American classics. Having missed these releases first time around, I was finally able to hunker down and enjoy Annie Get Your Gunreview – just one of several budget-price reissues from this stable. Factor in some fine voices – operatic baritone Thomas Hampson among them – and it’s not hard to see why these discs are self-recommending.

Starting with ‘Ragtime Restaurant’ from Kern’s first complete score Red Petticoat – like Berlin’s Annie it’s a comedy Western – the characterful Hugh Panaro adds real class to this collection. Ditto Rebecca Luker, who made such a delightful impression as Winnie Tate. As for the London Sinfonietta and their enthusiastic chorus, they seem entirely at ease with these foot-tappin’ tunes. I particularly commend the jazzy brass, who play as if to the manner born. And there’s a languid charm to ‘Drift With Me’ from Love o’ Mike, the swaying choral line and Jeanne Lehman’s light, bright soprano a joy to hear.

Not all this music is equally memorable, but Panaro’s ‘I’m So Busy’ makes the most of Kern’s waltzy tune. McGlinn springing the dance rhythms with wonderful ease and naturalness. Meanwhile, ‘Till The Clouds Roll By’, penned by the great P.G. Wodehouse, is another of those deeply nostalgic tunes, reminiscent of enchanted evenings at the parental gramophone. Tenor George Dvorsky, who has an attractive, supple voice, is most enjoyable here and in his catchy ‘Whip-Poor-Will’, with Jeanne Lehman. The latter teams up with Rebecca Luker for a fine rendition of ‘The Bullfrog Patrol’, the orchestra as pointful as one could hope for.

The two numbers from Dear Sir find Kern in a winsome mood, the well-upholstered orchestration especially beguiling. But it’s the trip-tripping songs, such as ‘She Didn’t Say ‘Yes’’, that stay with you. And then there’s the film Men of the Sky, a Warner Bros release from 1931 that’s since vanished into the ether; the surviving song ‘Every Little While’ is a delight though, Dvorsky in melting voice. Again, one’s ear is irresistibly drawn to the nicely scaled playing of the London Sinfonietta. And what a pleasure to hear the firm, lyrical tones of Thomas Hampson in ‘The Song is You’ from one of Kern’s double acts with Hammerstein. Broadway tunes just don’t come more memorable than ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, movingly sung here by Jeanne Lehman.

The final tranche of songs includes Hampson at his most assured in ‘The Folks Who Live On The Hill’ – the trombone playing is fabulous, too – while the rest of the singers, including a stratospheric Lydia Milá, make a splendid ensemble in ‘Heaven In My Arms’ from Kern and Hammerstein’s last collaboration, Very Warm For May. Interesting that this 1939 hit was directed by Vincente Minnelli, who went on to direct the great MGM musicals Meet Me in St. Louis and An American in Paris. In many ways, this album belongs to the band, who prove they can boogie with the best in ‘Harlem Boogie-Woogie’. A splendid sign-off for a most enjoyable collection.

Broadway anthologies just don’t come much better than this. EMI’s spunky sound – this is an Abbey Road recording – is perfect for this repertoire, vocal and instrumental balances well judged throughout. Even the rather skimpy liner-notes and lack of song texts can’t dampen my enthusiasm for this terrific disc.

Dim the lights, crack open the Chardonnay and just enjoy.

Dan Morgan

Dim the lights, crack open the Chardonnay and just enjoy.