Judy Kaye

Americanegro Suite

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Harold Arlen reunited with his first lyric partner, Ted Koehler, to write the set of six songs -- "four spirituals, a dream and a lullaby" -- called The Americanegro Suite between 1938 and 1940. Published in 1941 but rarely performed, the 20-minute song cycle recalls Porgy and Bess in its attempt to present elements of gospel music as art song. Actually, with its stretches of recitative, especially in the lengthy "Reverend Johnson's Dream," it is somewhat similar to Earl Robinson and John Latouche's "Ballad for Americans," which was popular around the same time. As music based in an African-American idiom rendered with the formality of classical music, it is clearly affectionately intended, but nevertheless curious, and certainly dated. Recorded in 1986 but apparently not issued until 1990, this album contains the definitive reading by soprano Judy Kaye, pianist Peter Howard, and the Premier Gospel Quartet. But at least as interesting is the selection of other Arlen songs that fill up the disc, including some wonderful obscurities, such as "For Every Man There's a Woman," rescued from the 1948 movie Casbah, and "Green Light Ahead," with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, a cut song intended for the 1954 version of A Star Is Born.

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