Monday, November 28, 2005

Kamasutra/Street Scene--Buddy De Franco and Richard Maltby

The fascinating 78 I'm about to share with you is one of interesting contrasts: Jazz heavyweight Buddy De Franco paired with mood maestro Richard Maltby; and lively exotica (side A) coupled with the mellowest and most sophisticated easy listening (flip).

Also, I find the Kamasutra/Street Scene combination kind of odd, as you hopefully wouldn't be practicing the former on the street. Unless it were very late (and very dark).

"NOT FOR SALE!" appears on both sides, suggesting that MGM had such high regard for the music, it was loathe to place mere monetary value on it. Or that it was trying to scare DJs into not selling the record. Obviously, that tactic worked, as evidenced by the zillions of "Not for sale" 78s that still exist.

Anyhow, 1953's Kamasutra is a De Franco-Maltby composition, arranged and conducted by Maltby (though it was his orchestra, Buddy was busy with his clarinet solo). The modal portion features a Misirlou-ish flattened 2nd, and the relative-Major section is nicely jazz-chromatic. And I can't believe I just typed "nicely jazz-chromatic."

By gosh, I did. It's too late for me, but you can avoid falling into the hyphenated-adjective trap. Don't become like-me.

Where were we? Oh, and there's lots of percussion. Or maybe, in its loudness, it only seems like lots. It works, which is all that matters--though I wonder how many 20-lb. weights were required to keep the mike grounded.

Click on the photo for the music (aren't we fancy?).

And here's the flip, ten times more mellow but just as potent. Alfred Newman's Street Scene was written for the 1931 King Vidor film of the same name, and I love it to death even if it's more than a little indebted to Gershwin. Not that the latter composer invented the blues scale or Vb9 chords, but his sound is all over this--according to my ears, anyway. On the other hand, if only Gershwin could have produced something as smoothly Gershwinesque as Street Scene .

More lounge and exotica to come (and shortly, this time)!


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Exotica through the years, part 4: More big band exotica

This time, it's Paul Whiteman, Harry James, Freddy Martin, Harry Roy, Ted Weems, and... Andre Kostelanetz? Yup, Andre Kostelanetz, whose pre-Columbia-label orchestra could perhaps be termed a really big band. His acres-of-strings sound had yet to show up on shellac.

And here's Andre's really big band on the Brunswick label with Coubacaban, from 1937:

Coubacaban (Escarpenter--Morejon), Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch., 1937.

Next, it's Andre again with Xavier Cugat's My Sombrero, from the same year and label:

My Sombrero (Cugat--Stillman), Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch., 1937.

Now, Harry James and Frank Sinatra take us to a little street in Singapore, courtesy of lyricist Billy Hill and tunewriter Peter (Deep Purple) De Rose. In spite of the minor noise on this track, the selection is in a "Major key," to use NPR's phrase. Sophisticated melody, inane lyrics. The big band era was full of those.

On a Little Street in Singapore (Hill--De Rose), Harry James and His Orch., featuring Frank Sinatra, 1937.

This next piece of Roosevelt-era exotica takes place At the Cross Roads. Harry Roy's pop-song adaptation of Ernesto Lecuona's Malaguena features skillful exoti-crooning by Marjorie Kingsley:

At the Cross Roads, Harry Roy and His Orchestra, feat. Marjorie Kingsley, 1943.

Andre's really big band returns with Harold Mooney's Swamp Fire, from 1938 (and Brunswick):

Swamp Fire (Mooney), Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra, 1938.

From 1947, here's Freddy Martin and His Orchestra with pianist Barclay Allen's own Cumana:

Cumana (Barclay Allen--Roc Hillman--Harold Spina), Freddy Martin and His Orch., featuring Barclay Allen, 1947.

From 1933, Ted Weems' mega-after-the-fact-hit Heartaches, rendered rumba-style. This track is invariably labeled corny or worse, but it's extremely well-arranged, and Weems' musicians were some of the very best of the big band period. I suspect that Elmo Tanner's whistling has a lot to do with the disrespect accorded this superb dance record. Besides, corny is O.K. at Vintage Lounge:

Heartaches (John Klenner--Al Hoffman), Ted Weems and His Orch., featuring Elmo Tanner, 1933.

Paul Whiteman closes this set with four excellent tracks, beginning with Ferde Grofe's quite imaginative arrangement of Narciso Serradel Sevilla's big 19th-century hit, La Golondrina (The Swallow):

La Golondrina (Sevilla, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1928.

Next, Rimsky-Korsakov's Hymn to the Sun, as Fox-Trot-ized by Ferde:

Hymn to the Sun (Rimsky-Korsakov, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1936 radio broadcast.

I don't know, but I'm guessing that Victor Herbert isn't a big name in exotica history. Perhaps he should be--listen to his Cuban and Oriental serenades from the 1924 Suite of Serenades, as recorded by Paul Whiteman in 1928:

Suite of Serenades--Cuban (Herbert, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1928.

Suite of Serenades--Oriental (Herbert, arr: Grofe), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1928.

Big band exotica at--where else?--Vintage Lounge.

Lee (afraid he may have broken Spell Check with this post)

Friday, November 04, 2005

A hint of Esquivel; roots of Ray Conniff?

This single was in my "to listen to" pile for about a year, and I'm glad I finally got around to spinning it--it's in my "to be sorted" pile now. We'll start with the flip side, One Kiss, which begins and ends in pure Juan Garcia Esquivel mode (courtesy, mainly, of the uncredited vocal chorus), with the mellowest kind of EZ big-band in between. Exotica and over-the-top "wordless" vocalizing on a Tommy Dorsey record! The kind of find I live for.

One Kiss (Romberg--Hamerstein II), Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, 1953. From Decca 45.

Actually, One Kiss appears to have been the plug side. But it was The Most Beautiful Girl in the World that made the Top 40--a side that, for want of an echo chamber, would have been right at home on Ray Conniff's 1956 'S Wonderful album.

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (Rodgers--Hart), Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, 1953. From Decca 45.

And these two tracks have convinced me that I was right, after all, about the Ray Conniff sound of Hugo Winterhalter's chorus of the late 1940s and early 1950s. I had decided I was wrong on that score ("Apologies Due" post), but now I realize that my ears and memory weren't fooling me. So nice, to be able to trust both again.

To celebrate that happy reconciliation, let's hear Hugo Winterhalter's chorus and orchestra, from 1950, with the highly Conniff-esque The Third Man Theme:

The Third Man Theme, Hugo Winterhalter's Orch. and Chorus, 1950. Columbia label.

I guess this means that Conniff didn't invent the idea of voices trading off with instruments. Of course, Winterhalter most likely didn't, either. I wonder how far back that pop tradition dates? (This is a job for Vintage Lounge!) The point is, musical features are not things invented by any one arranger or orchestra leader; rather, they evolve over time. A concept that flies in the face of most pop music scholarship, true, but one that Vintage Lounge holds to in spite of any, and all, intelligent-design scenarios to the contrary (such as, Elvis inventing rock, Benny Goodman inventing swing, Link Wray inventing power chords, etc.). And this is why we find "later" features popping up years before they were supposed to have happened. Proof that changes occur over time, and often when and where we least expect them. (Oops--I forgot to subtitle this paragraph Conclusions.)