Bobby Short

Guess Who's in Town: Bobby Short Performs the Songs of Andy Razaf

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"The man has been utterly forgotten," writes annotator Barry Singer of lyricist Andy Razaf, an oversight Singer was to redress in 1992 with the publication of his biography, Black and Blue: The Life and Lyrics of Andy Razaf, but even before Bobby Short recorded this tribute album, Razaf was gaining prominence through the use of his songs in a series of all-black Broadway revues, starting with Ain't Misbehavin' in 1978. As songwriters go, composers tend to be better-known than lyricists, and performers tend to be better-known than non-performers, which is why Razaf's frequent songwriting partner, composer/performer Fats Waller, vastly overshadowed him. (Razaf also wrote with the likes of James P. Johnson and Eubie Blake.) But his songs, notably "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'," became standards. Short, leading a nine-piece jazz band with four horn players, including Marshall Royal and Harry "Sweets" Edison, performs those two hits and a collection of others in his inimitable supper-club style. He is careful to add the infrequently performed introductory verses to many of the songs, giving a sense of context and teasing the listener before the familiar refrains kick in. Razaf not only had the sophistication of Short favorites like Cole Porter, he was not above tweaking his famous white competitors, notably here in "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid," which provides the "downstairs" equivalent of an "upstairs" Cole Porter focus on the rich. But whatever the listener does or does not know about Andy Razaf, this is a superior collection of songs from the '30s and '40s, performed by a master at bringing out all their nuances and pleasures.

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