Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Exotica through the years, Part 2: Perry Como and Tony Martin

As Rose Room is to How High the Moon, Temptation is to Misirlou. What, you may wonder, am I talking about?

Well, according to Alec Wilder, Art Hickman's 1919 Rose Room was one of the jazz-improvisational vehicles of choice in the days before High High the Moon (1933), and for the same reason: its chords are constantly in motion. Nothing like the nonstop modulation that is Moon, but Hickman's tune accomplishes nearly as much, and with considerably crater economy. I mean, greater. Similarly, Temptation provided pop music listeners with the Misirlou scale (the name of which I forget) before the tune of that same name hit the pop charts, and without stating that mode as explicitly. In fact, Temptation's exotica-cliche I/bII chord change serves as a sort of cover for the scale's lowered 2nd and 6th. Tunewriter Nacio Herb Brown's 1929 Singing in the Rain is better-regarded by pop song historians, but we think they're all wet. Perry Como's hit 1945 recording really emphasizes the Misirlou nature of the song, thanks to Ted Steele's over-the-top-and-then-some arrangement:

Temptation (Brown--Freed), Perry Como with Ted Steele and His Orch. (1945).

And here's a more mellow--but far from dull--semi-Classical rendition from 1945, courtesy of my favorite such conductor, Morton Gould:

Temptation (Brown--Freed), Morton Gould and His Orch., 1945. (Orig. from 78 set, After Dark.)

Speaking of mellow, not to mention moody and melancholy, here are Tony Martin and David Rose with a subtle and spooky turn at Taboo:

Taboo (Margarita Lecuona--S.K. Russell), Tony Martin, with David Rose and His Orchestra, 1941.

Possibly the only thing less likely than exotica from Jesse Crawford (besides exotica from Perry Como, which we've already heard) is killer exotica from Jesse Crawford. But that's just what we're about to hear--expert and earnest Ernesto Lecuona on the Wurlitzer:

Siboney (Ernesto Lecuona--Theodora Morse), Jesse Crawford, Wurlitzer organ, 1931.

More pop exotica to come. Actually, exotica is already pop, so "pop" pop exotica might be the term I'm looking for. (To hyphenate or not to hyphenate? That-is-the-question.)

"Alec Wilder--who's that?"--Nacio Herb Brown, only one of whose songs is mentioned, none too positively, in Alec Wilder's American Popular Song.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Count Bingula presents: Scott roots and rock roots.

This MYPWHAE/Vintage Lounge simulpost brought to you by Count Bingula.

Count Bingula (a.k.a. Bingo) says, "Goot day!" The Count recently discovered an interesting Raymond Scott precursor, along with a couple of rock-roots tracks, and all in the person(s) of The Dorsey Brothers. The Count is so excited by these finds, he can't sleep. Hence, he's stayed up well into the daylight hours (see above). He's been after me to get this post done, so I'd better do the Count's bidding.

The Scott-roots track is a once-famous number penned by Jimmy Dorsey called Oodles of Noodles (1932). Not too long ago, I posted Percy Faith's big-violin 1949 version, which is excellent in its own right but not very Scott-ish. So, what do we have here? We have Jimmy Dorsey's alto sax speeding along in Scott-style 16th notes, we have a tempo change for the moody middle section (more of a shift in rhythm(s); the speed change isn't as drastic as it seems), and we have the same kind of "modern" chords and jazzy syncopation. Note the +11 chord in the second strain, which later became Jimmy's radio theme, Contrasts. Oh, and note the silly, cartoon-style title. Keep telling yourself, "Nobody else wrote music like Raymond Scott's. Nobody else, etc."

Oodles of Noodles (J. Dorsey), The Dorsey Brothers, 1932.

The following three Dorsey Brothers sides feature superbly imaginative arrangements, probably by chief arranger Glenn Miller. Here's where I have to agree 100 percent with Scott (as opposed to his extollers), who regarded Miller as the best talent on the block. No argument here. The rock roots consist of the extreme gospel feel of 1934's Annie's Cousin Fanny (composed by Miller!) and the somewhat prominent rock-style backbeat; also, the no-nonsense, highly pronounced boogie-woogie of Milenburg Joys (1934), and Stop, Look and Listen (1934).

Annie's Cousin Fanny (Miller), The Dorsey Brothers, 1934. (Step aside, Hank Ballard!)

Milenberg Joys, The Dorsey Brothers, 1934.

Stop, Look and Listen, The Dorsey Brothers, 1934.

Glenn Miller, a rock-roots arranger? The idea isn't as far-fetched as it seems, by any means. Besides, rock historians are always telling us that gospel, blues, and boogie-woogie are in the Top 5 of rock influences, and all three things are powerfully present here. So, we're virtually compelled to agree with Count Bingula on these matters, I think.

In time, I'll post an amazing Glenn Miller Orchestra side called The Hop, which was composed by none other than Ray Conniff. It's a fast swing number that builds and builds in intensity, finally settling into twelve-bar-blues choruses and an afterbeat that threatens to bounce the stylus off the platter. Miller and Conniff, apparently, were at the hop years before any teen quartets arrived.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Exotica through the years, Part 1

That branch of pop music known as "exotica" began with Martin Denny. And rock and roll was invented by Elvis. And The Sting reintroduced ragtime to the American public.

Now you're ready to start your career as a pop music journalist. Have fun.

Meanwhile, back at the blog, we will examine the history of exotica a little more closely. We'll start by traveling back to 1956, where we'll visit a few record stores and grab some Sun Elvis 78s and assorted blues and rockabilly sides to sell when we get back to the future. Once we've done that, we'll zip back 35 more years to 1921, where the sounds of Max Dolin's Orchestra are ringing forth from a nearby cabinet gramophone:

Si Llego a besarte (Dame un beso) (Bolero Cuban), Orquesta Max Dolin (1921).

"If I Get to Kiss You" is the translation of the first part of that title. Great stuff--Max's band was a rhythmically looser version of Paul Whiteman's, almost. And, speaking of Paul, here's a side by that hard-drinking King of Jazz called Down in Old Havana Town, known to Bix Beiderbecke collectors primarily as a Whiteman side featuring Bix but without a solo (and therefore of no interest). In fact, the side boasts a highly imaginative Ferde Grofe arrangement, interesting rhythm(s), and at least one brief change of meter--from 3/4 to 4/4 (the latter being the time signature of the verse, I'm betting). And great playing, too. But no Bix solo. Maybe I should throw it in a landfill. (Just being sarcastic.)

Down in Old Havana Town (arr: Ferde Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1928.

Now let's jump back nine years (bumpy ride, no?) to 1919, the year that Art Hickman began his recording career. If the idea of 1919 exotica seems like too exotic a concept, then give these beautifully-played performances a cyber-spin:

On the Streets of Cairo, Art Hickman and His Orchestra, 1919.

Cairo, Art Hickman and His Orchestra, 1919.

"Someday, guys, they'll call this stuff 'exotica'!"

And we close (for now) with two famous Lecuona numbers--the first by Margarita (Taboo) Lecuona, and the second by the better-known Ernesto (Malaguena, Granada, Andalucia) Lecuona. Jan August, whose Dizzy Fingers didn't get a rave review at this blog, does a terrific job on the Ernesto number.

Babalu (Margarita Lecuona), Jan August, 1951.

Siboney (Ernesto Lecuona), Lenny Dee, 1955.

More exotica-through-the-years to come!


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Four versions of "Misirlou"

Here are four recordings of Nicholas Roubanis' Misirlou, beginning with Freddy Martin's 1948 big band version. Hard to choose a favorite from these--The Cardinals' performance, maybe. Or Martin's. Or Herman's, possibly. Actually, Grant's is nice, too. Hm....

The Cardinals are maybe a bit out of place, vintage-lounge-wise, but what the heck. Misirlou, Freddy Martin and His Orchestra featuring Stuart Wade, vocal, and Barclay Allen, piano. (1948) Misirlou, Woody Herman and His Orchestra featuring Woody Herman, vocal. (1941) Misirlou, Harold Grant and His Orchestra (1941). Misirlou, The Cardinals (1955).



Monday, October 03, 2005

Leading-edge Lounge

Seven examples of vintage lounge that sound as if they were recorded 10, 15, 20 years later. Innovative lounge--is that possible? Of course. It's what this blog is all about.

We start with Jerome Kern's Poor Pierrot, arranged by Morton Gould, who plays the piano on this. This sounds, to my ears, as if it were recorded circa 1966--so much so, you can almost hear the stereophonic sound. Gould just doesn't get the respect he deserves, lounge-history-wise. And it's possible he wouldn't want it, come to think of it.

Poor Pierrot (Kern), Morton Gould, piano and orchestra, 1951.

And here's Alfred Newman, from 1953, conducting his very own Street Scene--a symphonic jazz classic he penned for King Vidor's 1931 movie of the same name.

Street Scene (Newman, 1931), Alfred Newman conducting the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra, 1953. From Mercury 45.

And, as an added bonus (isn't that a redundant redundancy?), here's George Greeley with the Warner Brothers Orchestra, from 1961:

Street Scene (Newman, 1931), George Greeley, Warner Brothers Orch., 1961. (Is there an echo in here?)

That was George Greeley with the Warner Brothers Orchestra, in case I forgot to mention it. And here is--I mean, are--Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe with the RCA Victor Orchestra (cond. by Victor Alessandro) in a roots-of-Ferrante-and-Teicher performance of Lover. This is another side that could easily pass for 1966, let alone 1946.

Lover (Rodgers-Hart), Whittemore and Lowe with the RCA Victor Orchestra, cond. by Victor Alessandro, 1946.

Another ahead-of-his-time loungster (loungster??), Andre Kostelanetz, is definitely not regarded by most people as the cutting edge of anything. But witness (aurally) how much this 1944 gem sounds like The 101 Strings, circa 1958. Which, again, isn't something that cries "innovation," but these things are relative, needless to say....

Blues in the Night (Harold Arlen), Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch., 1944. From vinyl (shellac would be more authentic, but I only have vinyl, in this case).

Louis Alter (best-known, possibly, for Manhattan Serenade) wrote the following gem in 1950. Here's Domenico Savino's 1959 recording:

Stranger in the City (Alter), Domenico Savino and His Symphonic Strings, 1959. From RCA Camden LP.

And we close with the late Salvadore "Tutti" Camarata's light music gem of 1953, Pizzicato Rhumba, which is exactly what the title describes. (Who would dare come up with a name like that and not live up to it?) Camarata, of course, arranged for Jimmy Dorsey and later worked for the Disney label (Annette, et al.), which he cofounded!

Pizzicato Rhumba (Camarata), Camarata conducting the Kingsway Symphony Orch., 1953. From Decca 45 (recorded in England).

And... Blogger's photo upload is not working (again). Oh, well.... It's the music that matters!