Bobby Short

Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter/Guess Who's in Town

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Collectables Records' two-fer release of Bobby Short's 1971 tribute album to Cole Porter and his 1987 tribute album to Andy Razaf provides an interesting comparison between the two songwriters who wrote during the same period in similar styles. Porter (1891-1964), the child of wealth, was the musical voice of sophistication on Broadway from the 1920s to the 1950s; Razaf (1895-1973), an Amercan-born descendent of deposed Madagascar royalty, grew up without the privileges his family had enjoyed, a struggling black man in America. Both wrote witty songs for the stage and for elegant nightclubs, but the contrast between them was best expressed in Razaf's "A Porter's Love Song (To a Chamber Maid)," which deliberately treated of the cares of the help instead of their rich employers and punned on the name of his better known peer. Bobby Short, who has spent his career interpreting Porter's work, finally devoted a double LP largely to the songwriter's lesser known songs with Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter, even premiering three unpublished compositions. His spirited readings had just the right combination of effervescence and humor, the sense of celebration that was at the core of Porter's sensibility. Guess Who's in Town, recorded a decade and a half later, finally turned a spotlight on a lyricist whose songs ("Honeysuckle Rose," "Ain't Misbehavin'") had proven to be standards, even as the man himself was "forgotten utterly," as annotator (and eventual biographer) Barry Singer put it. Overshadowed by such collaborators as Fats Waller, Razaf nevertheless penned a catalog full of wonderful songs, some of the best of which were revived by Short with a small jazz band including Harry "Sweets" Edison among others. Put together, the two albums make for a terrific collection of show music performed by a master.

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