George Gershwin

From Gershwin's Time: 1920-1945

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The music of George Gershwin is a fundamental constituent of jazz and 20th century popular music. There is much to be learned by perusing the large and varied number of Gershwin collections that exist in the world more than seventy years after his demise. From Gershwin's Time consists of 41 selections made between the years 1920 and 1939. This collection focuses largely upon Gershwin's impact on pop and classical music. Those who seek or crave more genuinely jazz-oriented Gershwin recordings should carefully peruse other Gershwin compilations or search by song title, starting with "I Got Rhythm," "Lady Be Good" and "Love Is Here to Stay." In order to appreciate and enjoy this braided bundle of historical material, listeners may need a bit of context for what is reproduced here. The Gershwin brothers operated at the epicenter of theatrical and popular songwriting activity in New York during the '20s and '30s. Much of the vintage material compacted into the first 28 tracks of this collection has direct ties to vaudeville, cinema and stage entertainment. Fred Astaire's definitive handling of "A Foggy Day" and Al Jolson's convulsively intense performance of "Swanee" will be familiar to most listeners, but few are fortunate enough to have heard Van & Schenck harmonizing in their magnificently antiquated manner. Real Afro-American culture does emerge in Maxine Sullivan's lovely rendition of "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and a comedic take of "Oh, Lady Be Good" by Buck & Bubbles, but the vast majority of performers represented in this portion of the collection are typical of mainstream pop culture during the composer's heyday: Ukelele Ike, the Ipana Troubadors, the Singing Sophomores, the Three Songies and a number of harmless dance bands who sometimes figured out how to play it hot, as in the Ben Selvin Orchestra's recording of "Oh, Gee! Oh, Joy!" and a rousing romp through "My One and Only" by the Cliquot Club Eskimos. Kate Smith's excellent version of "I Got Rhythm" -- she actually sings the verse -- is pleasantly energetic and might come as a surprise to those who only associate her with "God Bless America." Gershwin's comedic stage material is heavily featured by a dizzy array of slaphappy Caucasian ensembles including the Rondoliers Quartet and ensembles led by Red Nichols, Abe Lyman, Eddy Duchin and Hal Kemp. Certain "upper crust" vocalists are locked into the conventional formula of light opera. Other singers do their best even if more authentic and sincere versions have been rendered by intuitive jazz musicians -- a clear example would be Ella Logan's very nice recording of "Love Is Here to Stay" as compared with the more soul-bearing interpretations by both Billie Holiday and Lester Young. This fascinating compilation also contains eight piano solos by George Gershwin, the "Concerto in F" as played by pianist Roy Bargy with Paul Whiteman's orchestra, a 23-minute "Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture" presented by Fritz Reiner and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and a "Novelty Abridgement of Rhapsody in Blue" zealously wheezed by Borah Minnevitch & His Harmonica Rascals.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
feat: Al Jolson
2 2:35
feat: Art Lange
4 3:05
5 2:50
6 3:24
feat: Alex Gray
8 2:38
9 2:49
10 4:13
11 3:06
12 2:54
13 3:06
14 2:45
15 2:56
16 2:55
feat: Red Nichols
feat: Kate Smith
19 4:33
20 3:03
21 2:54
22 2:50
23 2:49
24 2:42
25 2:50

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:51
2 3:01
3 2:32
4 3:03
5 3:10
6 2:46
7 3:16
8 1:22
9 2:39
10 1:03
11 2:30
12 3:04
13 11:38
14 7:32
15 4:33
16 23:41
blue highlight denotes track pick