Sunday, June 03, 2007

My One and Only Love

June 3, 2007

I thought that title would get your attention. Actually, the subject of the blog is the popular song by that name, one that had eluded my attention until it was recorded on Rod Stewart's "American Songbook IV" CD. Even then, I didn't think much of it.

Rod Stewart? Moi?

I admit I hadn't discovered the aging rocker until he began recording corny old songs and singing them on tv with an unabashedly straightforward style. I bought the CD for tunes like "My Funny Valentine,""I Wish You Love" and "Thanks for the Memory" -- the latter of which Stewart rescues from its permanent association with Bob Hope, who introduced it in his first movie, The Big Broadcast. Even typing the movie's title, The Big Broadcast, makes me feel like an old windbag. But while I'm at it, I recommend that you see the movie, or at least Hope's duet of the original "Thanks for the Memory," which he sings with great charm.

I'm still in the process of transferring my vinyl to my laptop, whence it will go to an MP 3 or an iPhone or something really sharp and impressive up-to-date. However, the music that's being transferred has a certain nostalgic tinge -- records I've had since I was a teenager, which was many years ago. I have some of my father's old jazz albums, a smattering of Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett, a ton of Frank Sinatra, my late husband's Count Basie, my old Kris Kristofferson, Tom Paxton and Joni Mitchell.

I even have a gang of Christmas music albums, including one I bought in Switzerland that has many of the old French carols we sang when I was a child at the Marietta Johnson School (I am bored stiff by secular Xmas music). I have transferred a few favorites from original-cast Broadway show albums: Have you ever heard Ray Middleton since "My Defenses Are Down" from Annie Get Your Gun?

It's an emotionally draining trip, re-recording all this stuff, because you have to listen and make powerful decisions to discard huge and emotional parts of your life. I've described it here before. I still love the music, but I don't need all this vinyl; I need less stuff. I'm more than halfway through, but I had to stop because it was too painful. Now I've started up again so that I can finish the job.

I picked up one of Jim Adshead's albums, "George Shearing: Blue Chiffon." I had saved "Velvet Carpet" since the mid-1950's, with its sweeping, swooping string-background to Shearing's inventive jazz noodling (Who can recover from "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" superimposed on top of "Dancing on the Ceiling"? I ask you!), but hadn't liked the "Blue Chiffon" as well, so I didn't familiarize myself with it all that much. I decided to listen to a side and see what I thought of it. The next decision was, can I live without this particular rendition of this particular tune? Okay, I like the tune "I'm Old Fashioned," and don't have it in my collection, and Shearing's version is very nice. Then I came upon "My One and Only Love," a song I knew only from Rod Stewart's CD and didn't much care for, with its contrived rhymes and banal sentiment. But Shearing's version was gorgeous. Not too lush, not too fiddly, but a beautiful melody elegantly jazzed up. I had to have it.

My nephew Will Friedwald is a jazz historian, and the author of a book called Stardust Melodies which gives the "biographies" of a dozen popular songs. He'd probably know the story of the birth of "My One and Only Love," plus the background of its writers and all the people who ever recorded it. I contend that nobody did it better, and that it comes off as well by Shearing as it ever did by anybody. I'm glad to have it.

As to my own one and only love, that'll have to come in another post.

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