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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"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." 

A Tune with "Distinct Potentialities"

From the beginning, George Gershwin felt that a song he and Ira had just penned for the film Shall We Dance had, in his words, "distinct potentialities of going places." The song was "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and he was right: the film (starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) wasn't even released until May 7, 1937, but between March and June of that year, everybody who was anybody was already recording it: Ozzie Nelson, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Carl Fenton, Billie Holiday, and Count Basie with their respective orchestras....and, of course, Fred Astaire with Johnny Green and his Orchestra.

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Which Pianist Is Playing What?

Well, that’s the twenty-thousand-dollar question when you are transcribing duo-piano parts note-for-note from 1920s recordings, made before stereo recording was invented.  It’s like solving a sonic Rubik’s Cube. 

When we set out to put together a fireworks-filled overture for our Gershwin show — I think it was in 2011, and the show was then titled Syncopated City (which was the original title of “Fascinating Rhythm;” yes we know, too obscure!) — I collected all kinds of marvelous recordings of duo-pianists playing Gershwin.  Listening to Ohman & Arden, Fray & Braggiotti, Fairchild & Rainger was the fun part.  

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