Retrophonic Gershwin in the Studio

It's OUT!!!  At times over the last three and a half years, I was sure I'd never see the day when I could say this, but the album is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and at joanellison.com. In case you missed it, here's last week's interview on WCLV 104.9 Ideastream with the ever-charming Bill O'Connell.  

And here are some (unvarnished!) pictures of Jason, Jodie, and I, along with Oberlin audio engineer Paul Eachus — Mark was the man behind the camera, as usual — tracking the album at Oberlin's Clonick Hall back in July 2012 and January 2013.

And here are a few audio clips from the album that I hadn't yet posted.  All tunes are by George & Ira Gershwin, and the styles vary widely.

"Treat Me Rough"

The Gershwins' "Treat Me Rough" is such a rollicking good time to sing that I'm always cheered by it no matter how I was feeling before I began.  It was, I believe, the very first fully duo-piano arrangement I ever attempted, using the 1943 Girl Crazy version, with June Allyson and Mickey Rooney, as a template.   The first try-out, in a room with two pianos at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, was the opposite of auspicious, but I could hear the potential.  And a couple of years later when Mark & I decided to expand our 1920s Gershwin show, Syncopated City, into the 1930s with Gershwin On the Air, we finally got to hear brought it to life with great glee by Jason Aquila & Jodie Ricci. I like to think of it as a pianistic fist fight. 

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Conjuring Bing

If you have been reading the other featurettes about the tunes we’ve included on “Retrophonic Gershwin,” you’ll know that many of the piano-vocal arrangements are note-for-note transcriptions from 1920s-’30s recordings, but I took a different tack with “A Foggy Day.”  I’d read that, in 1931, Bing Crosby recorded a demo out in Hollywood of the Gershwins’ score for the movie Delicious — including “Blah, Blah, Blah,” which I would dearly love to hear.  Alas, as I understand it, that recording has been lost.  However, it got Mark and I thinking about how a late 1930s Bing might have sung “A Foggy Day” and we decided to have a go at bringing our imagined version to life.

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"Retrophonic Gershwin" out July 21st!

Mark Flanders and I sat down yesterday to film a short video interview about "Retrophonic Gershwin," our album that was three years in the making and features Jason Aquila & Jodie Ricci on nine-foot Steinways (a Hamburg and a New York, for those who want to know more!), along with our vintage-style vocals. We hope you enjoy it!  

This is the seventh in a series of posts about the tunes on "Retrophonic Gershwin," our soon-to-be-released album.  Part 1 is "How I Got Rhythm," part 2 is ""Probably I'll Meet Him at a Soda Fountain,"" part 3 is "Which Pianist is Playing What?," part 4 is "Silver Linings," part 5 is "Darling, Let's Take a Bow", and part 6 is A Tune with "Distinct Potentialities." 

Getting Happy

I think it was sometime in 2011 — after I'd been performing A Date with Judy! The Songs of Young Judy Garland for a couple of years and had just done a string of highly enjoyable appearances with orchestras — that I got the idea to put the two together and create a Hollywood-era Judy Garland concert with orchestra.  I already knew that I'd have to commission arrangements, because Judy's early films were made by MGM, and MGM's pre-1970 orchestral scores and parts currently reside in a landfill by the Golden State Freeway, north of L.A.  And I already knew the arranger who had the experience, steeped-ness, and plain heart to do it: Paul Ferguson.  I'd performed one of his Gershwin charts with the Cleveland Pops on a few occasions and felt like I was singing on a '50s recording session for Capitol Records.  

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