This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Frank Loesser wrote songs in the usual manner of tin pan alley, but he also wrote musicals for Broadway – both music and lyrics – "Guys and Dolls" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" are the couple that spring immediately to mind.
He managed to gather a Tony Award, a Pulitzer Prize but only managed a nomination for an Oscar. Although Frank's dad was a piano teacher, he didn't teach him as even by the age of four he could play by ear pretty much any music he heard.
After dad died Frank had to go out and earn a living in non-musical pursuits. He eventually got hired to write songs and his future was assured (with some bumps along the way).
Let's get to the music itself, starting with the "Divine One", SARAH VAUGHAN.
It's been said by some that Sarah could have been an opera singer if the opportunity had arisen. We'll never know. She sings a song that many others have also tackled, but few as well as she. Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year.
Another song that many have performed – okay, I think you'll be able to say that about everything today – is Baby, It's Cold Outside. I considered a number of versions, but the one that tickled my fancy was by WILLIE NELSON and NORAH JONES.
Willie and Norah are admirably suited to the laid back nature of this song.
Here is MILES DAVIS with his classic early quintet.
That is John Coltrane on tenor sax, Red Garland piano, Paul chamber bass and Philly Joe Jones drums. It really doesn't get any better than that. Their contribution is If I Were a Bell from the musical "Guys and Dolls".
From one of the musicals mentioned at the beginning, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying", ROBERT MORSE sings to himself.
This is from the scene when he is in the loo with a bunch of others and he serenades himself in the mirror. If you get a chance to see the film it's worth it for this scene alone. Robert assures himself that I Believe in You.
We have another film tie-in, this time it's "Thanks for the Memory" – that's the name of the film. You can probably guess who the singers are, but that's not the song we're using (although it was in the film, as you can imagine).
First, for those not familiar with that particular song I'd like to say that the singers are BOB HOPE and SHIRLEY ROSS.
The song is Two Sleepy People. Frank had the help of Hoagy Carmichael for the lyrics on this one.
Another musical/film is "Guys and Dolls", already mentioned, and from that we have the song, A Bushel and a Peck. This was all over the hit parade at the time, with multiple versions.
I listened to a bunch of them (that was a bit of a trial), and the one that least offended me was by FRANKIE LAINE and JO STAFFORD.
Here's what they sound like.
"Greenwillow" is not a musical with which I'm familiar, but I'm not a big musical fan so it's not too surprising. Lesser Samuels and Frank Loesser wrote it and Frank wrote all the songs for it – about two dozen of them.
One of those is Never Will I Marry, which has been recorded by a bunch of people. I'm not going with one you're probably familiar with, instead here is ANDREA MOTIS.
Andrea is a Spanish musician and on this track she not only sings, but plays trumpet as well.
I originally had Chet Baker pencilled in at this spot, but I heard BILLY ECKSTINE sing the song and changed my mind. It's pretty unusual for me to throw out Chet, however, I know that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, will approve of my including Billy.
Billy really did have one of the finest voices in music. I wasn't keen on all those strings, but it was the fashion back then. Hear what he makes of I've Never Been in Love Before.
Frank's songs seem to lend themselves to jazz treatment, and the next is no different. In this case it's by BILL CHARLAP.
Bill came from a musical family, his mum sang on Perry Como's TV program and dad was a Broadway composer. Bill plays piano and has his trio along to perform On a Slow Boat to China.
This is the sort of material that's really suited to MEL TORMÉ, so of course, he gets into the act as well.
Mel's version of Once in Love with Amy is pretty well known, but it's always good to hear it again.