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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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REBECCA KILGORE & DAVE FRISHBERG

Why Fight the Feeling?

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19356

 

 



 

1. Thank Your Lucky Stars
2. Let's Get Lost
3. Can't Get Out of this Mood
4. The Lady's in Love with You
5. Say It (Over and Over Again)
6. Then I Wrote the Minuet in G
7. Somebody, Somewhere
8. The Moon of Manakoora
9. On a Slow Boat to China
10. I Wish I Didn't Love You So
11. Says My Heart
12. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
13. Sand in My Shoes
14. What a Rhumba Does to Romance
15. Why Fight the Feeling?
16. I Believe in You
17. Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat
 
Rebecca Kilgore - Vocals
Dave Frishberg - Piano

 

When people talk about "The Great American Songbook", you know you will hear the names of such composers as Kern, Gershwin, Porter and Berlin. One name often omitted from this list is Frank Loesser, perhaps because he was a comparative latecomer. Loesser's first success didn't come until 1934 with I Wish I Were Twins (with music by Eddie de Lange). Another thing that held him back was that his early work was solely as a lyric-writer. He only started writing music as well as words for songs during the Second World War, and it was after the war when he wrote such successful musicals as Where's Charley?, Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Even Alec Wilder's classic book American Popular Song 1900-1950 gives him little space, because "Loesser's famous Broadway scores fall outside the time span of this study".

So it is good that long-time collaborators, singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist Dave Frishberg, have made this album reminding us of Frank Loesser's abilities and some of his numerous songs, several of which are little-known. Only the last of them - Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat - comes from Loesser's most famous musical, Guys and Dolls, but most people will also know such numbers as The Lady's in Love with You and On a Slow Boat to China. The duo could have made a whole album of songs with words and music by Frank Loesser, so it may be regrettable that ten of the songs they chose had music by other composers - from Burton Lane to Beethoven (the latter supplied the melody for Then I Wrote the Minuet in G).

Nonetheless this is an excellent album, as Kilgore and Frishberg have worked together so often that they are entirely sympathetic musical partners. Dave Frishberg is quoted in the sleeve-note as saying "She's the easiest to play for of any singer I've ever worked with. It's a piece of cake because she sings the lead. She doesn't wait for someone to help her with it". He adds: "She responds to what I'm playing". The pairing of the two reminds me of the empathy one sensed in the famous duets between singer Ella Fitzgerald and pianist Ellis Larkins - with two performers in complete harmony with one another.

As a writer of witty lyrics himself, Dave Frishberg is well placed to appreciate Frank Loesser's skill in this department. Yet Loesser deliberately kept his lyrics accessible: avoiding excessive cleverness. And Rebecca's singing is delightfully straightforward, full of jazz feeling but devoid of affectation. Her vocals sound simple but it is the simplicity that comes from years of experience.

Many of the songs were written for films, which is not surprising - seeing that Loesser contributed to 89 movies. The opening Thank Your Lucky Stars was the title-song for a star-studded 1943 film, and Loesser co-wrote tracks 2, 3 and 5 with Jimmy McHugh for 1940s movies. Then I Wrote the Minuet in G adapts a well-known melody from Beethoven, probably as a parody of other attempts to use classical pieces as pop songs. It begins with the famous opening of Ludwig's 5th Symphony.

Rebecca Kilgore sings the unfamiliar introductory verses of several songs, including the self-contradictory verse of On a Slow Boat to China: "There is no verse - to this song, 'cause I don't want to wait a moment too long". What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? is the sort of song that usually only crops up on Christmas collections but it's good to hear it with its yearning verse.

I Wish I Didn't Love You So is one of the album's highlights, with vocal and piano blending faultlessly, and Frishberg providing a gentle stride to add a jazz element. What a Rhumba Does to Romance is a rarity - a discovery of Rebecca's - and Dave Frishberg enters into its jokey mood, as Becky complains that "You never hold me tight for a minute, Why did the Cubans ever begin it?" One can imagine the unique Martha Raye giving it all she got in the 1938 film College Swing.

This album makes you want to delve further into the work of the Kilgore/Frishberg duo - and into that of Frank Loesser. Loesser is more.

Tony Augarde


 

 

 

 



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