Barbara Cook

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In October 2004, songwriter, arranger, and pianist Wally Harper died, robbing Barbara Cook of her accompanist and musical partner of more than three decades' standing. Not surprisingly, she has reacted by dedicating this album to him and including on it four of his songs ("The World Must Be Bigger Than an Avenue," written for the 1973 Broadway revival of Irene; "I Never Knew That Men Cried" from the 1974 musical White Nights; "Another Mr. Right Left"; and "Sing a Song with Me," performed as a medley with Irving Berlin's "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy," which she has recorded several times before). But the selection can also be taken as a tribute to songwriter Harold Arlen at his centenary ("I've Got the World on a String," "Out of This World," "Last Night When We Were Young") and to Arthur Schwartz's 1951 musical A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ("I'm Like a New Broom," "I'll Buy You a Star," "Make the Man Love Me"). And then there is a handful of great show tunes Cook somehow has never recorded before (Lerner & Loewe's "Hurry, It's Lovely Up Here" from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; George Gershwin's "Nashville Nightingale" from Nifties of 1923; Jerome Kern's "Bojangles of Harlem," first sung by Fred Astaire in the film Swing Time; Charlie Chaplin's "Smile"). In Harper's absence, Cook is accompanied by Michael Kosarin, augmented by a small orchestra. While there are certainly moments of sadness, particularly in "Last Night When We Were Young" and "Smile," that will call to mind Harper's passing to those aware of it, this is hardly a melancholy album, and anyone hearing it without knowing the context is liable to take it simply as another Barbara Cook album in which her sweet voice caresses another set of high-quality songs mostly borrowed from vintage musicals in a mixture of standards and little-known gems.

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