CD Review: Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Vanheusen

VANHEUSENISM
A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen

2016-8-30 VANHEUSENISM #1This CD features pianist/vocalist Daniela Schachter with a small group performing eleven of composer Jimmy Van Heusen’s famous tunes. She is visiting professor of voice at Berklee College of Music. This is her fourth album.

All twelve songs—there is one original by Ms. Schachter entitled Vanheusenism –are arranged by her. She is supported by Mike Tucker, tenor sax; Michael O’Brien, acoustic bass; and Mark Walker, drums.

The listener is in for pleasant surprises. Songs aren’t rendered in the way in which Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra might present them. For example, Here’s That Rainy Day has both an original in-chorus as well as out-chorus. Vocals are used tastefully and sparingly and there is wonderful interplay with supporting musicians. Van Heusen’s famous Polkadots & Moonbeams is performed as an instrumental and written almost as a counter melody. There is wonderful interplay of vocal and string bass on It Could Happen to You.

So you don’t miss the other tunes, not mentioned above, they are: Darn That Dream, Come Fly With Me, Like Someone in Love/Imagination; The Second Time Around, All The Way, Call Me Irresponsible, But Beautiful and I Thought About You.

Ms. Schachter is a seasoned performer, having won Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead completion in 2002 and Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition in 2005. She has appeared on NPR’s Piano Jazz and performed under conductors Quincy Jones, Phil Wilson and John Clayton, Jr. as well as many others.

2016-8-30 VANHEUSINISM #2Reviewing this CD was especially meaningful for me, not only because of the unique musical presentation of the tunes, but because I had the privilege of reviewing Christopher Coppula’s 2014 biography of Jimmy Van Heusen. The significance of Come Fly with Me is that Van Heusen, and expert pilot who led a double life in Hollywood during WWII as Jimmy Van Heusen—songwriter—and Chester Babcock (his real name)—test pilot for Lockheed. Van Heusen served as Sinatra’s friend, pilot, drinking buddy and procurer of women. My review may be found of my blog at www.jazzpensacola.com.

Book Review: How To Listen to Jazz by Ted Gioia

How To Listen to Jazz
By Ted Gioia
Basic Books © 2016, pp.254 with index and end notes

Let me state personal bias at the beginning of this review. Ted Gioia’s The History of Jazz is on my list of all-time favorites. He published The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire in 2012 and an earlier book West Coast Jazz is considered one of the classics in jazz literature. Now that we have established my opinion, we can proceed.

As the title suggests, Mr. Gioia proceeds, in basic and clear language, to explain for the novice the essence of jazz. Written for the layman, he takes the reader through the basic elements. Titles of each chapter will give an idea of the make-up of this book. They are:
The Mystery of Rhythm; Getting Inside the Music; The Structure of Jazz; The Origins of Jazz; The Evolution of Jazz Styles; A Closer Look at Some Jazz Innovators and Listening to Jazz Today.

He gives suggested listening for each chapter. Now that most people have access to streaming services such as Spotify (and numerous others), YouTube and option of purchase of individual tracks on the internet, listening options are easily accessible.

Gioia gives his personal list of 150 jazz artists who is in early or mid-career.

This book can be recommended for the jazz novice and is a survey, not a definitive exposition of the jazz art. Those whose opinions are clearly fixed or those seeking intimate details of a particular jazz artist will not find this book helpful. But for those seeking guidance and are just beginning to explore the world of jazz, this is a good starting point.

Permit this personal reference, Ted’s brother Dana was Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts (2003-2009). Dana Gioia came to Pensacola during that period to make a financial presentation ($10,000 as I recall) from the NEA to the Pensacola Symphony. I was invited to that ceremony and when introduced I told him that I was acquainted with the work of his more-famous brother. (Smile).

Jazz sheet music collection added to Jazz Room at downtown West Florida Public Library

A collection of approximately 9,000 jazz tunes has been added to the Jazz Room at the main branch of the West Florida Public Library. The Charles Anderson Fakebook series has jazz tunes, some of which have never before been printed as sheet music. Mr. Anderson, a retired musician himself started this as a service to jazz musicians searching for jazz tunes, some popular and some obscure. Some of the tunes had to be transcribed from the recordings, having never been in print form.

A fakebook is a lead sheet of music showing only the melody and accompanying chord symbols. So the performer playing rhythm instrument, such as piano or guitar, can improvise using the chord symbols for a pattern. Hence the term, “faking,” since the performer might not play the accompaniment exactly as written on the sheet music.

Norman Vickers, a member of the Jazz Society of Pensacola, visited Anderson at his home in the 1990s. Anderson said he had done this as a service to jazz musicians, especially ones interested in early jazz, who were searching for tunes, some of which were obscure. He related that his network of friends would send him tunes as they uncovered them. He would pay a person to transcribe the music—just the melody line—and then add the chord symbols. When he got enough sheets, he would assemble these in a loose-leaf binder for sale. The approximately 9,000 jazz tunes, and accompanying lyrics if there were any, were assembled in 17 volumes.

Charles Anderson has subsequently died and, since the major task of assembling these early jazz tunes is essentially complete, there is no great need to continue the effort. However, the volumes are still for sale, having been passed on to Jim Jones, a concert banjoist in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Additional information can be found at www.andersonfakeook.com.

Todd J. Humble, director of West Florida Public Libraries, said, “We are pleased to have the Anderson series for the Jazz Room. We have searched availability through public library systems and found that the nearest library having such a service is in Chicago.”

The Jazz Room is located on the second floor of the main branch of the West Florida Library at 239 N. Spring Street in downtown Pensacola. It is supported by contributions of the Jazz Society of Pensacola and Friends of the West Florida Public Library. The collection of jazz books, CDs and DVDs is currently valued at approximately $19,000.

CD Review: Sunday Night at the Vanguard, The Fred Hersch Trio

The Fred Hersch Trio;
Sunday Night at the Vanguard
Palmetto Records © 20126

This live recording was made at the famed Village Vanguard. Hersh plays piano accompanied by bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson. Of the ten selections on this album, five are originals. The technical aspects of the recording are excellent. Although this was recorded live, there is no extraneous sound and, listening without this information, one would assume it’s a studio recording.

Of the other five compositions, the group plays a lesser-known Richard Rodgers tune, A Cockeyed Optimist, Kenny Wheeler’s Everybody’s Song but My Own, Paul McCartney’s For No One, Thelonious Monk’s We See, and Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks.

Let me acknowledge that I am a great admirer of Fred Hersch. His 1993 CD on Angel label Red Square Blue; Jazz Impressions of Russian Masters is one of my all-time favorites. I had opportunity to hear him in person in Atlanta in the early ‘90s during a convention of the International Association of Jazz Educators. His slot on that varied program was mid-morning. I was surprised to see how many world-famous musicians, most of whom were scheduled to perform during the convention, were up that time of day to hear him.

Accompanying information with the CD for review indicated that Rowles had given a hand-written copy of The Peacocks directly to Hersch. My LP of Rowles’ performance of that tune has been played many times over. Rowles rendition is just shy of four minutes. Hersch’s interpretation of that tune is ten minutes, fifteen seconds.

One draw-back, at least for me, was the absence of liner notes. But the recording speaks for itself. I heard musical lines suggestive of Satie and Bartok. Recommended for the serious listener.

This CD will be deposited at the Jazz Society’s collection in the Jazz Room at the downtown West Florida Public Library and be available for check-out by library patrons. The collection contains other CDs by Hersch as well as his DVD entitled Coma Dreams.