Tony Thomas

George Gershwin Remembered

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In this hour-long radio documentary, first aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the spring of 1961, narrator and interviewer Tony Thomas assembles a biography and appreciation of George Gershwin by using his own commentary, rare and vintage recordings, and interviews with several people who knew Gershwin. Ira Gershwin, the composer's brother, is heard reminiscing about their early days together, sounding as if he is reading from a prepared text. Movie composer Alfred Newman, a friend of George Gershwin's, also seems to be reading as he recalls their relationship. But Fred Astaire, another Gershwin confidante, clearly was interviewed by Thomas, his remarks coming off as less formal and more spontaneous. This is also true of fellow songwriter Arthur Schwartz and bandleader Paul Whiteman, who provides a detailed account of the rushed circumstances surrounding the composition of "Rhapsody in Blue." Thomas' own commentary can be a bit florid (he once refers to Gershwin as "a musical meteor"), but there is less of it as the documentary goes on. The musical excerpts are only occasionally identified, and they include both studio recordings and soundtrack material, among the latter a rare excerpt from a newsreel covering the rehearsals for the Gershwin musical Strike Up the Band and Kenny Baker's performance of "Love Walked In" from The Goldwyn Follies, the last film on which Gershwin worked. Thomas disappears completely in the final segment, which is a 12-minute performance by Oscar Levant, who tells Gershwin anecdotes (again seeming more prepared than off-the-cuff) while playing a medley of the composer's music. The album is full of tidbits that will entertain and enlighten Gershwin fans.