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Hutch – Leslie A Hutchinson – Let’s Do It. ‘High Society’s favourite gigolo’. His 50 finest, 1929-47

Leslie Hutchinson (piano and vocals, and with accompaniment)
RETROSPECTIVE RTS 4166 [78:58 + 78:41]

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CD 1
Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love
Ain’t Misbehavin’
With A Song In My Heart
Life Is Just A Bowl Of
Without A Song
How Deep Is The Ocean?
Lover I Cover The Waterfront
Don’t Blame Me
Night And Day
Dusty Shoes
Close Your Eyes
Anything Goes
Dream Shadows
For All We Know
Easy To Love
East Of The Sun
Dinner For One, Please, James Blossoms On Broadway
When The Poppies Bloom Again
Says My Heart
September In
The Rain
It’s De-Lovely
A Foggy Day In London Town
Let’s Call It A Day
CD 2

These Foolish Things
The Way You Look Tonight
The Woodpecker Song
Deep Purple
I Hadn’t Anyone Till You
Begin The Beguine
A Nightingale
Sang In Berkeley Square
You Go To My Head
The Best Things In Life Are Free
My Prayer
Where Or When
Just One Of Those Things
Indian Summer
Whispering Grass
Do I Love You, Do I?
All The Things You Are
Sand In My Shoes
Let There Be Love
The Nearness Of You
Moonlight Cocktail
You Stepped Out Of A Dream
You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
Long Ago And Far Away
La Mer

It’s easy to forget but, as Peter Dempsey’s notes remind us, Grenada-born Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson began his musical and recording career in the jazz studios of New York. It’s true that his first sides in 1923, as a piano accompanist, were for vaudeville singer Ruth Coleman but he was soon laying down piano for Blues singer Mamie Smith. His journey from Granada to New York and thence Paris and London took about a decade, but it was in the last city that he assumed the persona of the suave entertainer, one whose heyday lasted not much more than 12 or 13 years.
The songs he essayed are either part of the Great American Songbook or not far off it. He was quick off the mark as well, picking up on show tunes soon after production, and seldom more than a year later, striking when the critical iron was hot, and the songs still fresh in the collective imagination. The formula seldom varied. He’d play a short piano introduction – he was an accomplished Harlem Stride player but banished that idiom from these songs, even a Fats Waller song when it would have been appropriate – and then sang in his parlando-portamento-baritone, breaking for a piano statement then back with the vocal. Usually it was Hutch solo, singing and playing, but sometimes he had a contingent from Harry Roy’s band along.
Two charges that can readily be made against him are of excessive sentimentality and a certain rigidity in the piano playing. I think they both stand up. That said there aren’t any nods and winks, thankfully, in Let’s Do It and some good piano on Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries. His singing of How Deep is the Ocean? is ardent, but his accompaniment wanting in flexibility. He couldn’t really do sensuousness either, the voice too portentous and inflexible to coil around Close Your Eyes and standing at a tangential remove from Al Bowlly’s way with it. He takes For All We Know at a jaunty lick – so forget all thoughts of Nina Simone. The ultra-cocktail romance of The Way You Look Tonight seems to sum up an era.
I admit I would have preferred to hear him with a band more often, and with more imaginative arrangements. When he sings Sand in my Shoes, with a small unidentified band, he sounds liberated from the routine. When, conversely, he is accompanied by a harp in Charles Trenet’s La Mer – Englished by Carlene Mair as The Sea - he sounds out of his stylistic depth.
Still, these 50 tracks sum him up very adeptly. Again, as per this series as a whole, they’re a touch too treble starved for my tastes, but they’re certainly very listenable.
Jonathan Woolf

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