This CD combines the contents of two albums released by Walden Records in 1955, The Music of Harold Arlen, Vol. 1 (Walden 306), featuring performances by Arlen himself, singing his songs and accompanying himself on piano (tracks 13-24 here), and The Music of Harold Arlen, Vol. 2 (Walden 307), on which Arlen's songs were performed by the vocalists Miriam Burton, Louise Carlyle, June Ericson, Warren Galjour, and Bob Shaver (tracks 1-12 here). Walden, founded by Edward Jablonski (who went on to become Arlen's biographer), was devoted to recording lesser-known songs written by major songwriters like Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, and Arthur Schwartz. The songs were performed in what was a contemporary style of the early '50s, small-band jazz arrangements tending toward piano/bass/drums trios, with the occasional addition of a guitar or a reed instrument; the biggest ensembles heard here are octets with a few strings added to the mix. Those arrangements were done by the estimable Peter Matz. Jablonski seems to have felt that he had no need to call attention to established Arlen standards like "Stormy Weather" or "Blues in the Night," while he was interested in giving greater exposure to, for example, "Halloween" and "I Love a New Yorker," both from the 1950 film My Blue Heaven. Among the guest vocalists, Miriam Burton was just then appearing in Arlen's Broadway musical House of Flowers, although she was not assigned any of the songs from the show. She and the others perform effectively. Arlen, making his first recordings as a vocalist in many years, proves an excellent singer with a supple tenor capable of bringing out the nuances of lyrics by his collaborators including Ira Gershwin, E.Y. Harburg, and Johnny Mercer, when he isn't displaying his piano capability on the instrumentals "Minuet" and "House of Flowers Waltz."
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Miriam Burton