Rebecca Luker: Kern by the Queen
Jun20

Rebecca Luker: Kern by the Queen

Update jan. 7, 2014. Rebecca Luker’s performance on the PBS series The American Songbook at NJPAC is now airing in the New York area. Check this page and local listings for air times in your area. Rebecca Luker’s I Got Love: Songs of Jerome Kern Since Jerome Kern and, indirectly, Rebecca Luker are partly responsible for this website’s existence, I’m taking a moment for some extra background before diving into my review of...

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Little Georgie Benson Flies Right
Jun06

Little Georgie Benson Flies Right

George Benson. Inspiration: A Tribute To Nat King Cole (Available to audition on Spotify.)   Consider the amazing career of George Benson: a child prodigy emerging from the Hill District of Pittsburgh to become a leading jazz guitarist in the sixties, he was a major force in making soulful jazz a sound that could co-exist in the rock world. But no one could have predicted how Benson would explode in the seventies, when he added...

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Eliane Elias: From Brazil with Chet
Jun05

Eliane Elias: From Brazil with Chet

I Thought About You (A Tribute To Chet Baker) (available to audition on Spotify) Eliane Elias long ago made her bones in the jazz hierarchy on the strength of her piano playing, and she’s integrated more singing into her work over the years, tackling selected standards on the pop-jazz scale from Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful” to Bill Evans’s “Waltz for Debby.” Interpreting the American Songbook as a singer means one thing...

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Giveaway Winner!
May11

Giveaway Winner!

We have a winner! Michael Buble has the number-one CD in the country, and to acknowledge his accomplishment, we gave away a signed copy of the hardcover photo-biography Michael Bublé: Flying High (Flame Tree Publishing) by Mike Gent, with a foreword and signature by Tune Tribune Editorial Director Rusty Cutchin. Click here to see the winner’s name (chosen at random by Rafflecopter). Thanks to everyone who entered and to you for...

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Willie Dances On
May04

Willie Dances On

Willie Nelson is an Untouchable, even to people who don’t always buy his records. At the seemingly ancient age of 40, he invented a musical genre (outlaw country) that firmly rejected the recent past of the Nashville Sound and invigorated country for millions of fans. A few years later, with Stardust, he boldly aligned himself with rock-era singers who embraced the American Songbook, bringing another wave of fans along with him. Now,...

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Mike the Knife
May04

Mike the Knife

There once was a singer who operated very successfully in the worlds of both pre-rock and rock-era popular music. This mythological figure, who was known in lands far and wide by the name Bobby Darin, managed to create hits that are now iconic representatives of early rock ‘n’ roll (“Splish Splash”), big-band swing (“Mac the Knife,” “Beyond the Sea,”), and folk-country (“If I Were a Carpenter”). No artist since has existed so...

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Pretty in Pink, Promising in Jazz
May04

Pretty in Pink, Promising in Jazz

Okay, here’s the big news: Molly Ringwald is not quite a jazz singer—not if she aspires to the command and confidence of her idols, like Ella Fitzgerald, or even to the stylistic distinction of her recent interview buddy Jane Monheit. But listening to Ringwald’s new album, Except … Sometimes, and trying to nail down which classic pop singer Ringwald most resembled, I got the distinct flavor on certain high, sustained notes of a quite...

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Can Seth Save the Songbook?
Feb19

Can Seth Save the Songbook?

Update, Feb. 25. The votes are in, and not just for the Academy Awards, but also for Seth MacFarlane as host of the Oscar telecast. As predicted, MacFarlane simultaneously offended and entertained both critics and commenters to various degrees, but observers seemed surprised with his array of talents as singer and announcer, if not as comic cum host. (See links at bottom.) Several bloggers seemed to have no familiarity with MacFarlane...

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Songbook Suspect in Jazz’s Death
Jan16

Songbook Suspect in Jazz’s Death

A fine article in Salon by the L.A. arts writer Scott Timberg lays out the current state of jazz as a popular art form, and it ain’t pretty. The thing is, it hasn’t been pretty for about 50 years. As important as the term jazz is in the history of American music, the witless application of the word to everything from atonal electronic sound collages to traditional pop vocalists has hindered even a basic understanding, let alone an...

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Review: Glenn Frey’s After Hours
May19

Review: Glenn Frey’s After Hours

An American Eagle in Nat King’s Court Glenn Frey is part of the solution. That is to say, he has decided in the latter part of his recording career to join the ranks of rock icons who have honored the great popular songs of America’s past. As an exercise in tribute and music education of fans who otherwise might never listen to a swing or modern jazz standard, these efforts are unassailable. But with younger musicians...

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Review: McCartney’s Kisses
Feb28

Review: McCartney’s Kisses

Hugs by Krall, Clapton, & Co.   Of all the pop stars who have issued tribute albums to American pop standards, Paul McCartney is in some ways the least likely to wind his way down the nostalgia lane. In other ways, you might wonder why it took him so long. After all, he was the Beatle who sprinkled the group’s later records with his takes on very old-school arrangements, “When I’m 64″ being probably...

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The Astaires: Life Before Ginger
Feb02

The Astaires: Life Before Ginger

A new biography shines light on one of the great forgotten stars of American show business, Adele Astaire, who left show business after a 20-plus-year partnership with her younger brother Fred, and watched him go on to become one of the most revered stars in the history of American musicals and movies. In The Astaires, Australian researcher Kathleen Riley reminds us that Adele was the unquestioned star of the dancing act the young...

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Review: Aretha’s Songbook Past
Feb22

Review: Aretha’s Songbook Past

Most music fans know that Aretha Franklin began her recording career singing gospel on Columbia Records before her breakout recordings on Atlantic, which made her an American music legend and earned her the sobriquet “Queen of Soul.” Many of those Columbia recordings, however, were secular numbers from Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, and Sony Legacy has gathered them under the title Aretha Franklin: The Great American...

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Review: Gershwin Goes Surfin’

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (Disney Pearl) On the surface, it’s an intriguing idea—a rock-era master of melody and vocal harmony revisits and reworks music of a pre-rock master of jazzy rhythm and sophisticated tunefulness. And in fact, the result is more interesting than many straight-ahead readings of standards by run-of-the-mill vocalists. Ultimately, though, the question you’re left with after listening to Brian Wilson...

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Johnny Mercer by Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood’s great documentary on Johnny Mercer, The Dream’s on Me provides a first-rate overview of pop music in the first half of the 20th century and beyond. A worthy companion is Gene Lees’ excellent biography Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer. Lees (himself a widely hailed songwriter, responsible for Anglicizing Jobim’s “Corcovado” and writing lyrics to Bill Evans’s “Waltz for Debbie”) digs deep for the...

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One Enchanted Evening (Mostly)

Update, December, 2010 I  hope that those who didn’t see this show in person caught the hi-def telecast on Live from Lincoln Center this past fall—definitely a gem for your permanent collection. July, 2008—It’s been a very good year for anyone in New York who loves or studies the American Songbook and its foundation in the Broadway musicals of the pre-rock era. There’s been a concert production of Kern and Hammerstein’s...

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