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Jerome Kern - The Song Is You
His 51 Finest: 1905 – 1962

RETROSPECTIVE RTS4310 [2 CDs: 158:34]

Jerome Kern (1885-1945) was one of the finest popular music composers of his generation. He wrote primarily for the musical theater and Hollywood musicals, composing over 700 songs in his career. Jerome was born in New York City and learned the piano at a young age. One of his first jobs was as a rehearsal pianist for Broadway theaters, where he also began writing and promoting his own tunes for theaters and silent films.

The earliest song in this collection is How’d You Like To Spoon With Me?, with lyrics by Edward Laska, from the 1905 musical The Earl And The Girl. The tune is sung by Corinne Morgan, a popular contralto and early recording artist, accompanied by a pump organ and the close harmony Haydn Quartet. Two songs on Disc One are by Marion Harris, an early pop-jazz crossover artist. Left All Alone Again Blues, with lyrics by Anne Caldwell, first appeared in the 1920 Broadway musical The Night Boat, and the charming song exemplifies Jerome’s unique talent for combining his melodies with other’s words. Marion also sings the classic Look For The Silver Lining, with lyrics by Buddy De Sylva. The song was first used in the 1919 musical Zip Goes A Million, and the recording more recently appeared in a Downton Abbey episode, danced to by Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. Both songs were recorded on the Columbia label with Charles A. Prince and his Orchestra.

Kern teamed up with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II for the 1927 musical Show Boat, one of his best-known works. He hired nightclub singer Helen Morgan for a starring role in the original Broadway production, and Helen sings fine renditions of two songs from the show; Bill and Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man. She was a mezzo-soprano and had a gentle and expressive vibrato, and was well-known for singing torch songs while sitting on top of an upright piano. Here she was accompanied by pianist Louis Alter, with Victor Young and the Brunswick Concert Orchestra. Both tunes were recorded in New York in August 1932.

The song Don’t Ever Leave Me appeared in the 1929 musical Sweet Adeline, and was recorded by Pearl Bailey and the singing group The Charioteers, with by Mitchell Ayres and his Orchestra in December 1947 for the Harmony record label. The Charioteers were a popular male quartet who were originally famous for their gospel recordings before being discovered by the pop music industry. Pearl sings a sultry swing version of the tune with a sweet clarinet and light guitar background. Frank Luther sings the enchanting tune Yesterdays, accompanied by Leo Reisman and his Orchestra, recorded in November 1933 on the Brunswick label. The song appeared in the 1933 musical Roberta, and has become a favorite of many jazz artists, including Art Tatum, Errol Garner and Coleman Hawkins. Leo’s band was primarily a dance orchestra and recorded many Broadway songs. Frank Luther was a well-rounded tenor who sang country-western and popular songs and could effortlessly break into a high falsetto, which he demonstrates on this recording. As well as being one of the world’s most famous dancers and actors, Fred Astaire was also an excellent vocalist. He sings a number of tunes in this collection. One of the best is The Way You Look Tonight, with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, from the 1936 film Swing Time. Fred had a casual, light-hearted singing style with a delivery as impeccable and precise as his dancing. He is accompanied here by Johnny Green and his Orchestra, recorded in July 1936 in Los Angeles.

This 2-disc set was compiled by Ray Crick, and Martin Haskell performed the final audio restoration and remastering. A 16-page booklet is included, with comments by Ray and background information provided by Peter Dempsey.

Bruce McCollum

Previous review: Göran Forsling


CD 1 (1905 – 1933)[79:49]
1. The Song Is You (Frank Sinatra, 1942) [3:23]
The Earl and The Girl (1905):
2. How’d You Like to Spoon with Me? (Corinne Morgan & The Haydn Quartet, 1905) [2:08]
The Girl From Utah (1914):
3. They Didn’t Believe Me (Dinah Shore, 1946) [3:10]
Oh, Boy! (1917):
4. Till the Clouds Roll By (Bing Crosby, 1945) [2:36]
The Night Boat (1920):
5. Left All Alone Again Blues (Marion Harris, 1920) [2:55]
Sally (1920):
6. Look for the Silver Lining (Marion Harris, 1920) [2:55]
7. Whip-Poor-Will (Jessie Matthews, 1942)
Sunny (1925):
8. Sunny (George Olsen, 1925) [2:59]
9. Who? (George Olsen, 1925) [3:13]
Show Boat (1927):
10. Make Believe (Allan Jones, 1941) [3:16]
11. Ol’ Man River (Paul Robeson, 1932) [4:14]
12. Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (Helen Morgan, 1932) [3:53]
13. You Are Love (James Melton, 1932) [4:53]
14. Why Do I Love You? (Frances Langford & Tony Martin, 1942) [3:02]
15. Bill (Helen Morgan, 1932) [4:09]
16. I Still Suit Me (Paul Robeson & Elisabeth Welch, 1932) [2:49]
Sweet Adeline (1929):
17. Why Was I Born? (Frank Sinatra, 1947) [2:42]
18. Don’t Ever Leave Me (Pearl Bailey, 1947) [2:14]
The Cat And The Fiddle (1931):
19. She Didn’t Say “Yes” (Ambrose & His Orch, Sam Browne, vocal, 1932) [3:00]
Musik In The Air (1932):
20. I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star (Mary Ellis, 1933) [3:16]
Roberta (1933):
21. Yesterdays (Leo Reisman & His Orch, Frank Luther, vocal, 1933) [3:11]
22. The Touch of Your Hand (Kathryn Grayson & Howard Keel, 1952) [2:01]
23. I’ll Be Hard to Handle (Emil Coleman, 1933) [3:01]
24. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Ruth Etting, 1934) [2:33]
25. Let’s Begin (Emil Coleman, 1933) [3:13]

CD 2 (1935 – 1946) [78:45]
Added to the 1935 film version of Roberta:
1. Lovely to Look at (Eddy Duchin, piano & his orch, Lew Sherwood, vocal, 1935 [2:58]
Three Sisters (1934):
2. I Won’t Dance Eddy Duchin, piano & his orch, Lew Sherwood, vocal, 1935) [3:00]
3. Hand in Hand (Al Bowlly, 1934) [2:52]
Swing Time (1936):
4. Pick Yourself Up (Fred Astaire, 1936) [2:56]
5. The Way You Look Tonight (Fred Astaire, 1936) [3:03]
6. Waltz in Swing Time (Percy faith & His Orch, 1951) [2:26]
7. A Fine Romance (Fred Astaire, 1936) [2:48]
8. Bojangles of Harlem (Fred Astaire, 1936) [3:03]
9. Never Gonna Dance (Fred Astaire, 1936) [3:10]
High, Wide And Handsome (1937):
10. Can I Forget You? (Bing Crosby, 1937) [2:51]
11. The Folks Who Live on the Hill (Bing Crosby, 1937) [3:07]
Joy Of Living (1938):
12. Just Let Me Look at You (Al Bowlly, 1938) [3:13]
13. You Couldn’t Be Cuter (Tony Martin, 1938) [3:12]
Very Warm For May (1939):
14. All the Things You Are (Tony Martin, 1946) [3:06]
15. That Lucky Fellow (or Lady) (Mildred Bailey, Benny Goodman & his orch, 1939) [2:22]
One Night In The Tropics (1940):
16. Remind Me (Julie London, 1962) [3:08]
Lady Be Good (1941):
17. The Last Time I Saw Paris (Noël Coward, 1941) [3:07]
You Were Never Lovelier (1942):
18. Dearly Beloved (Dinah Shore, 1942) [2:36]
19. I’m Old-Fashioned (Fred Astaire, 1942) [2:22]
20. You Were Never Lovelier (Fred Astaire, 1942) [2:40]
Cover Girl (1944):
21. Long Ago And Far Away (Helen Forrest & Dick Haymes, 1944) [3:21]
Can’t Help Singing (1944):
22. Can’t Help Singing (Deanna Durbin, 1944) [3:32]
23. More and More (Deanna Durbin, 1944) [3:37]
Centennial Summer (1946):
24. All Through the Day (Frank Sinatra, 1946) [3:00]
25. In Love In Vain (Helen Forrest & Dick Haymes, 1946) [3:03]
Bonus track – Jerome Kern’s greatest hit of the 50s:
26. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (The Platters, 1958) [2:36]



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