Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The roots of Ferrante and Teicher

Everybody's favorite duo-pianists, Ferrante and Teicher, weren't the first concert pianists of awesome technique to record novelty numbers and/or arrangements. I know, because I have located one (1) example of what I'm talking about--Jose and Amparo Iturbi's 1948 Three Blind Mice, as arranged by Jose Iturbi and George Stoll. The piece is in two sections: a Waltz Version, and a Boogie Version. Sounds lame, I know--but Itrubi and Stoll's treatment is exceptionally well-done, and the husband-and-wife ivory-tickling here is nearly as flashy as F&T on a second encore. They have that same spooky chemistry, too. I guess I'm just a sucker for grand pianism. Three Blind Mice (Arranged by Jose Iturbi and George Stoll), Jose and Amparo Iturbi, 1948 (from the 12" RCA Red Seal 78 set DM 1246).

Hopefully, I'll get my hands on some more F&T "roots." They're out there--I simply have to find them. Time to go thrifting!

(Please save, rather than open, file for best results. Thanks!)


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The roots of easy

And, so, we've observed (aurally) that acres-of-strings easy listening existed in all of its massed magnificence at least as early as 1939. But where did it come from? Are there yet earlier examples of easy-esque pop? Music that was taking the EZ way out as far back as, oh, 1923?

Of course not. EZ roots from the early Flapper Era to the early 1930s? Ridiculous!

Then again, light classics, symphonic-style pop, and string-laden arrangements were very much a part of recorded popular music of the 1920s and 1930s. Almost makes us wonder why such stuff was greeted by music critics of the mid-1950s as a new (and, of course, unwelcome) development.
When Day is Done, Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orch., 1927 (probably arranged by Ferde Grofe). Add some strings and some echo, and... instant Andre Kostelanetz!
Edward MacDowell's famous 1896 mood piece, To a Wild Rose, arranged by Ferde Grofe and played by Paul Whiteman's Chester Hazlett (with Roy Bargy on the piano). From a 1929 Columbia 78.
Song of India, Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (a 1926 remake of an earlier acoustical recording).
A Hunt in the Black Forest, Victor Concert Orch. (1926 or 1927). A Pops-concert staple, from a 12" 78.
In a Clock Store, Victor Concert Orch. (1926 or 1927). Also a Pops-concert staple, from same 12" 78. Great sound effects.
Dreams of India (Percy Wenrich), The Benson Orchestra of Chicago (1923). From a Victor 78 in reasonably decent condition.
Where the Ganges Flows, The Great White Way Orchestra (1923). More concert pop/way-early exotica from Victor.
Deep Purple, Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra (1934). I'm guessing the arranger to be Roy Bargy. From a 12" Victor 78.
Liebestraum, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, 1936. Mega-famous Liszt piece, as very effectively performed by Guy and the gang. From (you'll never guess) a Victor 78.
Kiddie Kapers, Victor Arden-Phil Ohman and Their Orchestra (1928). Sophisticated, charming novelty typical of the era, and very lounge in its sound. From a (yes) Victor label 78.
Dance of the Demon (Eduard Holst), Victor Arden and Phil Ohman, piano duet (1923). Further proof that keyboard lounge goes way back. Note that the Holst who composed this was not Gustav Holst--completely different people. That had confused me, at first. (From a worn 78 on the, um, Victor label.) Best heard with a silent film running.

Enjoy these ten (no, wait--eleven) tracks. Save files for best results! And lounge on!!!


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Strings and brass and (a healthy dose of) woodwinds

The standard stereotype of easy-listening music is as follows: strings, strings, and more strings. Nobody relayed that cliche to Percy Faith, luckily--strong brass, proud strings, and plenty of woodwinds were the rule on his records. (Proud strings?) His arrangements were equal-opportunity charts. No instrument or instrumentalist needed to feel left out. (Instruments have feelings, you know. At least, as we've observed, strings do.)

This intro is getting sillier than the title of the second selection, Jimmy Dorsey's Oodles of Noodles--which, by the way, is a very sophisticated novelty number, not to mention quite a workout for the players (who, fortunately, were guided by Faith). Listen for the bold and brassy closing to I Got Rhythm (George Gershwin's exercise in displaced Charleston rhythms) and the Day the Earth Stood Still-style intro to Deep Purple (the old #IV-I gimmick). Faith's Purple is almost the best version out there, save for not enough symphonic-jazz feel in the jaunty middle section. (I wish I could think of a good "purple" cliche. Something about Barney? No.)

Enjoy these terrific vintage lounge acts (er, tracks) from 1949! I Got Rhythm, Percy Faith, 1949. Oddles of Noodles (Dorsey), P. Faith, 1949. Deep Purple, Percy Faith, 1949.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Otto Cesana and His Orchestra, 1953

As we know, vintage easy-listening wasn't necessarily mild--certainly, these two tracks by Otto Cesana are, by EZ standards, downright in-your-face. Both originally appeared on the 10" Columbia LP, Sugar 'n' Spice (1953). Though the Clebanoff-style arrangements seem designed for stereo, they sound just great in monaural. Both numbers were penned by Cesana, though Night Train, of course, is the title of a much more famous Jimmy Forrest twelve-bar instrumental. There was, also, an earlier Whirlwind, by Stan (Riders in the Sky) Jones. I guess the music world was running out of titles by 1953 (?).

Night Train, 1953:

Whirlwind, 1953:

Enjoy! (Please save the files, for best results)


Thursday, June 02, 2005

No strings, please--we're skittish.

Why do music collectors have problems with strings in popular music--especially lots of strings? A few reasons come to mind. Anti-string-section attitudes are, in huge part, a legacy of jazz criticism and its relentless bashing of popular music. Also, there's the received stereotype of strings as anti-rock. And--let's face it--there are plenty of Brahms-phobic collectors who resent strings as symbols of that big, scary monster called Classical Music, even though they don't dare bash Classical music. That would be way too uncool. On the other hand, making fun of Mantovani's massive string section is no-risk behavior, and it can make the right impression on the right people. Good deal: solidify your status in the ranks of collectordom while bashing Mozart through Monty. Psychologists have a phrase for this: being completely phony. (Or, bashing Mozart through Monty.)

Strings in pop music equal crap--a weird notion, really, but try to get away from it. Is that possible? Well, we can start by listening to two superb examples of string-laden easy listening, neither of them the least bit boring (another strings-in-pop stereotype).

We have Vincent Youman's Hallelujah! as played by my favorite EZ maestro, Andre Kostelanetz:

And Andre, again, with You and the Night and the Music, from 1950:

(And the strings. They forgot to mention those.)