July 30, 2015

#42: I like (another) Gershwin tune

. . . how about you? It's the classic song from the classic Astaire-Rogers movie Shall We Dance:



"They Can't Take That Away From Me" is really an uber-classic, the title of which has entered the language. And it's a song so nice Bob Belvedere listed it twice, in two very different arrangements. Like Bob, I prefer the earlier one, but unlike Bob, I don't list the Swingin' Brass version among my favorites. It's a breezy, jazzy, fun treatment, but breezy doesn't work for me with this song. The singer's heartfelt emotion, anything but breezy, is for me the foundation of the song's appeal. Frank's '53 version retains that.

There are many, many things that will keep me loving George Siravo's arrangement: it varies from sultry to sweet to jazzy to "lilting" (to quote Bob), always swinging gently. Sinatra's obviously in top form here -- note the way he sings "on that bumpy road to love." And his seemingly involuntary interpolation of "doo doo doo doo doo doo" -- that alone might earn this song a place on a list of favorites.

I must include the original version from the film (ending at about 3:30 in). It's old-school romance, very nicely done:



Never mind for the moment that appreciation of Fred Astaire, golden-era musicals, and old-school romance itself is rapidly waning into oblivion. We've still got the audio and the video and they can't take that away from us.

***

Bob's put up another selection of honorable mentions, and again, he includes two songs that are very dear to my heart. One is coming up soon and the other occupies the rarefied air of my top twenty. But the fun track here for me is the ballad-turned-swinger "I Didn't Know What Time It Was." It's not on my list but I love it, and it will make my second-hundred favorites list for sure.

Mark Steyn covers a Big One that I will get to later on, but for now, you'll love this:

It was Alan Livingston and Voyle Gilmore who thought Riddle's jazz side would be perfect for Sinatra. Some of the musicians, until that April 30th session, weren't so sure. "Sinatra hadn't done much of that at Columbia," Milt Bernhart, his trombonist, said. "It was mostly lush string arrangements... There wasn't any reason to believe he could really handle the jazz phrasing correctly, because most of what he'd been doing was so square."

You heard that right: Milt Bernhart, who would go on to do the all-time great trombone solo on "I've Got You Under My Skin", thought Sinatra was a square. Frankie was a pretty little ballad boy, and he could sound aggressive and faintly menacing on rowdy novelties like "Bim Bam Baby", but who's to say this square could swing? "I wasn't convinced that he was going to be able to sing jazz style," said Bernhart. "I didn't know him that way at all..."

"I've Got The World On A String" is two minutes and change. When did Bernhart figure Mister Squaresville could groove with the cats after all? Maybe 30 seconds in:

I got a song that I sing
I can make the rain go...


The little spin he puts on "make" lets you know this is the sound he's been waiting for, the sound he was born to sing.
Yes!

Ms. EBL covers Sinatra's two lovely versions of another Big One, "The Nearness Of You," and includes [ahem] another version as well. (She's also got the trailer to The Wrecking Crew film, which I'm going to watch on Netflix tonight.) Go check it out.

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