Various Artists

No Strings: An After-Theatre Version

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Composer Richard Rodgers' first Broadway musical after the death of his partner, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, was No Strings in 1962. For it, Rodgers eschewed finding someone else to write lyrics to his songs and opted to write his own. The show was unusual in other ways, too. It was set in the present day and had a current, '60s theme -- it was about an interracial romance. And, giving its title more than one meaning, Rodgers had the music orchestrated without any string instruments. Of course, he didn't write '60s pop music; his idea of contemporary music was big band swing. It was therefore appropriate that Atlantic Records hit upon the idea of making an album of music from the show arranged in just that way. The greater concept was, suppose you left the Broadway theater where No Strings was showing and, to continue your evening, stopped in at a nightclub where a performer such as LaVern Baker, Chris Connor, Herbie Mann, or Bobby Short was playing, or, better yet, all four, and suppose they just happened to be doing songs from No Strings in their own styles? This, then, is "an after-theatre version" of 12 of the songs from No Strings, and they turn out to make the transition just fine. This is not a studio cast recording; none of the singers are playing the characters who sing the songs in the show. They simply have been assigned songs that conform somewhat to their individual styles and given arrangements by Al Cohn (for Connor and Short) and Bobby Scott (for Baker) that fit them. Thus, "Be My Host," "The Man Who Has Everything," "An Orthodox Fool," and "Love Makes the World Go" all sound like typically effervescent Bobby Short songs, while "The Sweetest Sounds," "Look No Further," "Nobody Told Me," and "No Strings" are given jazzy readings by Connor, and "You Don't Tell Me," "Eager Beaver," and "Loads of Love" have an R&B flavor courtesy of Baker. "La La La," Mann's showcase (though he also plays in the band on the Short and Baker cuts), takes the show from Paris to Brazil. For all their success, Rodgers & Hammerstein never had the appeal to jazz musicians that Rodgers & Hart did. This early interpretation of No Strings suggested that Rodgers alone might be more popular with the supper club set.

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