9:20 Special (Warren, Basie 1930s)
The Count Basie Band was one of the big surprises of the 1930s. A blues-based “territory” band from Kansas City, it hit New York with a style in wild contrast to those of Fletcher Henderson and Chick Webb who commanded Harlem.
Straighten Up and Fly Right (Cole, 1943)
Nat King Cole’s first hit in 1943 on the fledgling Capitol label and one of the hallmarks of the great King Cole Trio, which featured Nat Cole’s sparkling piano in tandem with the guitar of Oscar Moore. Starving in Los Angeles, Nat had sold the rights to his song for $50. The song nonetheless, helped establish his career.
Tickletoe (Young, Basie, 1939)
Lester Young was one of the two great tenor saxophonists who blew into Harlem with the Count Basie Band, and one who would live to be among the most influential players emerging from the Swing Era. Saxophonist Ray Loeckle is featured on this exuberant “Prez” number.
All of Me (Marks, Simons, 1931)
First appearing in 1931, this song enjoyed many revivals, including a Billie Holiday version and later one by Frank Sinatra, which really established the tune as a standard.
Until the Real Thing Comes Along (Chapman, Cahn, 1936)
Has personal meaning to Denise Perrier, who heard it as a young girl in her own family. Lyrics are by the beloved Sammy Cahn, who penned many songs with composer Jimmy Van Heusen for Frank Sinatra, but this one was written with Saul Chapman.
Liza (Gershwin, Kahn, Gershwin, 1929)
Is one of the fine contributions from the Gershwin brothers, and an example of how much the new exciting songs of Gershwin, Kern, Arlen, Berlin, Porter and Rodgers influenced and stimulated the Big Bands and soloists of the era.
I’ve Got the World On a String (Arlen, Koehler)
An early song from the long and distinguished career of Harold Arlen; who wrote such immortal songs as “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Blues in the Night,” “That Old Black Magic,” One for my Baby” and all the songs from “The Wizard of Oz,” including Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow.”
You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (Porter, 1942)
Ending a title with a preposition was just one of the ways that Cole Porter broke the rules with his inventive songs and urbane, sometimes riskè lyrics. Porter wrote all his own lyrics, something that among the great popular composers only Irving Berlin and Frank Loesser attempted. Though widely renowned for his lyrics, Cole Porter’s true genius lies in his compositions, like this one sung by Denise Perrier.
Easy Street (Alan Jones, 1941)
Commemorates the great band of Jimmy Lunceford, extremely popular in its prime, especially with dancers, but all but forgotten today, a tight organization fueled by Sy Oliver arrangements and a distinct two-beat style.
Take the A Train (Strayhorn, 1941)
Billy Strayhorn’s composition, which became the Ellington theme and remained so for years, began as a sketch Strayhorn penned on the subway on his way to Ellington’s house in Harlem, an audition piece for joining Duke’s band as an arranger.
Count Basie’s band was most at home with the blues, which harkened back to its Kansas City origins, and often displayed the band’s extraordinary sense of dynamics and irresistible rhythmic pulse.
Love for Sale (Porter, 1930)
Like his first hit “Let’s Do It,” Cole Porter enjoyed pushing the thematic limits, outside the customary purvey of love songs, “Love for Sale” traced the weary existence of a savvy wistful professional. It was said that nothing gave Cole Porter greater pleasure than raised eyebrows, including one later Cassanovic ballad that discussed exploring (it makes us catch our very breath to say it!) “the east, west, north and south of you.”
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (Ellington, Mills 1938)
From 1938 into the early 40s Duke Ellington led what many consider the finest of Ellington bands, inspired by the phenomenal pulse of young bassists Jimmy Blanton, the tenor saxophone of Ben Webster and the arranging of Duke’s new alter-ego, Billy Strayhorn.
September in the Rain (Warren, Dubin 1937)
Harry Warren, whose compositions span more than thirty years beginning in the 1930s, wrote mostly for films. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Jeepers Creepers,” Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “At Last” are several of his always well-crafted songs.
Dickie’s Dream (Young, Basie)
Once more recalls Lester Young and early Count Basie Orchestra, which in the late 30’s included the distinct trombone of Dickie Wells. Saxophonist Ray Loeckle is featured.
Moonglow (Will Hudson, Eddie DeLange, 1934)
One of the most adored and well remembered songs of the Swing Era, redolent of the clarinets of Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. Moonglow became two songs when in 1956 its chord structure was borrowed and fitted with a new melody to provide the theme for the film “Picnic” in 1956.
Caravan (Tizol, Ellington, 1937)
Long established as a Duke Ellington standard, “Caravan” was really a contribution of Ellington’s long-time valve trombonist Juan Tizol, who also wrote “Perdido.” The germ of many Ellington compositions came from his sidemen, and Duke had the luxury of maintaining a band to glean their ideas, as well as to test and stimulate his compositional offerings.
Mood Indigo (Ellington, 1931)
It was out of this same atmosphere that, in 1931, Mood Indigo was born. The year marked a turning point for the Duke, away from the Cotton Club and the “Jungle Band” style and toward an identity based on Duke’s increasingly complex compositions and the band’s growing popularity.
Cheek to Cheek (Berlin 1935)
The songs unusual structure and length is said to have emanated from Fred Astaire’s dance routine with Ginger Rogers, causing Irving Berlin to stretch the song into the form we know.
Route 66 (Troup, 1946)
Bobby Troup and his young wife composed the song as they drove their car westward to seek their fortune in Hollywood. The song became widely popular and one of the hits for Nat King Cole and his King Cole Trio.
Sam You Made The Pants Too Long
Adapted from Victor Young’s “Lord, You made the Night Too Long” 1932, a minor Bing Crosby hit that Milton Berle and cronies felt obliged to parody in 1940 as a man’s kvetch to his tailor.
Backwater Blues (Bessie Smith, 1927)
Tells the story of the disastrous Mississippi flood of 1927, originally sung by the famous blues singer Bessie Smith. Denise Perrier sings the song as a tribute to Bessie, calling upon her knowledge of Bessie’s life and Denise’s own Louisiana upbringing.
The Mooch (Ellington, 1928)
Duke Ellington’s earliest steady engagement at the Cotton Club in New York, a famous gang-run establishment that had an all white audience and all black entertainment. Ellington’s Orchestra was known as “The Jungle Band,” featuring muted horn effects by Bubber Miley, Duke’s first great trumpeter.
Ode To Dinah Washington
The imperial Dinah (originally Ruth Jones), raised in Chicago and early immersed in religious music, got her start with the Lionel Hampton Band in 1943, went on her own as a single in 1946, singing a wide range of material which produced a string of hits throughout her career. Denise Perrier, who sometimes devotes entire performances to songs made popular by the remarkable Dinah, gives us a brief glimpse of her with a medley including A Foggy Day (Gershwin), September In The Rain (Harry Warren), Come Rain Or Come Shine (Harold Arlen), and Under My Skin (Cole Porter).
Program notes by Bryan Gould