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FRANK SINATRA - Autumn Leaves

Playing right this minute on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio -- our favorite singer with the unsurpassed orchestral (studio) version of AUTUMN LEAVES -- a French melody none of us would ever have heard of without a new English lyric by Johnny Mercer. [We hear spoken words of introduction by Sinatra]

"One of my favorite ballads . . . orchestrated by Gordon Jenkins."

It's the last song of another "Chairman's Hour" -- my other favorite show on Channel 71. This is Sinatra Family friend Charles Pignone's own baby, and while I always catch it 'in progress' (without publicity I never know when it's on) I say the same thing every time. Great show!

First offering at YouTube this day, with a beautiful accompanying video - a walk along a path near a creek that could be a mile from where I live. But no, posted by a Lady with a Romanian name. I must go and thank her, and tell her of "The Chairman's Hour."
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Mr. Blackburn (call me Mark ?) . . . thank you for pointing me to this series of videos by Mr. McCartney (call me Sir ?) . . . I didn't know this existed, and it's an amazing get together of some very

BARBARA MORRISON - Don't Go to Strangers

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JO STAFFORD - Early Autumn

Composed as an instrumental in 1946 by arranger Ralph Burns and introduced by the Woody Herman band in 1947 (with an up-and-coming sax player named Stan Getz playing an arresting solo!) Ralph Burns waited five years, until early 1952 before asking a favor of his friend Johnny Mercer.

If you know Mercer's story, you can picture him taking a nap to let the words come to him, fully-formed -- like this perfect word picture of that special time of year -- poignant when we think of loved ones no longer with us:

When an early autumn walks the land, and chills the breeze, and touches with her hand the summer trees, perhaps you'll understand what memories I own ....
There's a dance pavilion in the rain, all shuttered down ....

Later that year, June 24, 1952 Jo Stafford was first to record the new song, arranged by her husband band leader Paul Weston. Followed just two days later by Ella Fitzgerald with a Sy Oliver big band arrangement. (Ella would wait 12 years before recording it again for her 'Johnny Mercer Songbook' album arranged by Nelson Riddle.)

12 years ago – the summer Jo Stafford died -- I remember there was only one version at YouTube of the original recording: THIS one, now with 164,255 “views” -- and comments from kindred souls:

comeacross9 (11 years ago)
"A dance pavillion in the rain..." Who can conjure up images like this any more?

kerpacol57 (11 years ago)
beautiful song....especially the way Jo sings it! hypnotic!

Corrie12111 years ago
Love the lyrics of this great song and Jo Stafford's rendition of it is perfection personified. Thank you for sharing

[Permit a personal note]
As a convert to my wife's faith, I was delighted to read (for the first time) these words in Wikipedia about Jo Stafford's family life:

Although Stafford and Paul Weston had known each other since their introduction at the King Sisters' party, they did not become romantically involved until 1945, when Weston traveled to New York to see Stafford perform at La Martinique.[7] They were married in a Roman Catholic ceremony on February 26, 1952, before which Stafford converted to Catholicism.[66] The wedding was conducted at St Gregory's Catholic Church in Los Angeles by Father Joe Kearney, a former guitarist with the Bob Crosby band, who left the music business, trained as a priest, and served as head of the Catholic Labor Institute.[66][67][68]

The couple left for Europe for a combined honeymoon and business trip: Stafford had an engagement at the London Palladium.[69]

Stafford and Weston had two children; Tim was born in 1952 and Amy in 1956.[70][71][72] Both children followed their parents into the music industry. Tim Weston became an arranger and producer who took charge of Corinthian Records, his father's music label, and Amy Weston became a session singer, performing with a trio, Daddy's Money, and singing in commercials.
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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STEVE TYRELL - (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons

The instant a Steve Tyrell arrangement begins to play on Sirius radio, I know it's one of his recordings. Like right this minute – FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS arranged by his guitarist Bob Mann (my all-time favorite studio musician on any instrument, period!) Yes there is a depth to the 'sound stage' on a Steve Tyrell record that is like a breath of fresh air. One reason I'm sure why so many artists have wanted Steve to be their producer. (See Wiki note below)

Is this one at YouTube? Yes. An official version too, thank you Steve.

Long-time friend of the Sinatra family, his Wikipedia entry opens with this note:

Steve Tyrell (born Stephen Louis Bilao III, December 19, 1944) is an American singer and record producer. He won a 2004 Grammy Award as the producer of the Rod Stewart album Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III.[1][2] He has hosted a jazz radio program on KKJZ in Los Angeles.


A New Standard (Atlantic, 1999 )
Standard Time (Columbia, 2001)
This Time of The Year (Columbia, 2002)
This Guy's in Love (Columbia, 2003)
Songs of Sinatra (Hollywood, 2005)
The Disney Standards (Walt Disney, 2006)
Back to Bacharach (Koch, 2008)
It's Magic: The Songs of Sammy Cahn (Concord, 2013)
That Lovin' Feeling (Concord, 2015)
A Song for You (EastWest, 2018
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JAMES TAYLOR - Over the Rainbow

You'd swear James Taylor wrote it!

Getting goosebumps – from the song, and from a 'synchronicity': I'd just speaking with my wife about Oscar Peterson. How we saw him at Winnipeg's 'Centennial Concert Hall' -- an audience of more than a thousand of us -- back in 1984. To this day "the best concert we have ever seen." Oscar without his famous trio, 'alone together' with jazz guitar giant Joe Pass. I recalled to my wife how Oscar could improvise a solo so that "every note's a chord."

My wife asked me if Oscar had recorded 'Over The Rainbow'?” -- after I had mentioned that it had been voted No 1 on list of 500 popular songs, in a couple of late 20th century surveys.

So. James Taylor's Facebook page just shared this tonight: OVER THE RAINBOW with a take-your-breath-away solo guitar arrangement that is stunningly beautiful – and with every note a chord! New progressions that flow with an organic wholeness only James Taylor could impart. Deepest thanks for sharing it with us now (and not holding back for inclusion on 'American Standard II' - 2022).

[Favorite comment below the video]

Joe Human (5 hours ago)
The 2 down votes are from the Wicked Witches of the West & East.

[Two years ago someone finally shared at YouTube a transcription of Oscar's OVER THE RAINBOW.]

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LIVINGSTON TAYLOR: Pajamas (I've got mine on)

James Taylor reminded fans on Facebook today, his “little brother Livingston” is now 70. Indulge me please in a most fond memory I owe the man. My family too.

My oldest grandson Thomas was in kindergarten when he performed – in pajamas – my favorite song by Livingston Taylor. When Thomas was a toddler, seated in the darkness of the back seat of our car, on the drive home, I would sing it to him. Two years later age four, there was Thomas at the school pageant, representing the kids in kindergarten -- sharing it with an audience of parents and grandparents. He brought the house down, as we used to say. His reward was being asked to perform it, next day, for the older grade children who weren't there the previous night.

Oh yes, seeing this video for the first time today, warm memories came flooding back. See what you think. Happy Birthday, Livingston Taylor! [most-viewed version at YouTube]

Instant response from the fine young man in question: Thomas Blackburn [writes]
Livingston had a larger part in my childhood than even his brother - not only do I remember that performance, but prior to leaving for Japan, there was a time when Uncle Ben used to have the Panasonic stereo in his bedroom and I can remember clicking through one of Livingston’s “best of” albums. In the first track “Get out of bed” - at the line “and let the sunshine fill your head” I recall switching on/off the bedroom light and Uncle pretending I had switched off the sun. Ah, memories! Thanks for stirring them up Grumpa!

[Responded to Thomas with "What a coincidence!" Livingston posted this November 10]

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Fred Astaire & Eleanor Powell - BEGIN THE BEGUINE

When Sinatra introduced this clip, in the first (of three) "That's Entertainment" specials, he said: 'You can wait around forever but you'll never see the likes of this again.' Fast forward a minute to start. Around the 2:22 mark, the music goes silent. They begin . . . to accelerate -- 'a capella' -- just the sound of their tap shoes. And you think: 'It can't keep getting better and better!' But it does. I've seen this clip a thousand times. I still get goosebumps. You too?
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MEL TORME – The Christmas Song

“All through the year we waited – waited through Spring and Fall . . .”

I turn on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio, streaming 24/7 on my computer and there is an album cover with the best late-in-life photo of Mel Torme singing a song that he composed but which I'd never heard him sing – never heard this version, until now.

A simply perfect if staged album cover: An older Mel Torme, seated in a big comfortable chair (wing-back, I believe they were called; my Mom had one).

At his right hand a roaring fire, where chestnuts could roast; some favorite books within easy reach of his left hand. And the contented smile of someone who collected a jillion dollars royalties for THE CHRISTMAS SONG.

Pray there's a version at YouTube with this cover, and that a Wise Man (or Lady) can put it up here for all our world to see. Nope. Not that I can find. But there's this one, with video of a real fire.

Also included – the song's seldom-heard opening verse. An intriguingly original arrangement that opens (just for me) with an arch-top
electric guitar, well played. (Wonder who?) The middle part goes a little heavy on the sleigh bells, but then the rest of the song's orchestration is comforting to my ears and heart. You too? Can't spot the arranger -- someone very good though.
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Frank Sinatra conducts Tone Poems of Color

I'd like to think I own this one – among the 70-plus Sinatra CD's languishing in cardboard boxes in our basement – now gathering dust, with only Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio to blame. [“What are you going to do with these?” asks my Irene from time-to-time. “Someone will want them when I'm gone,” I always say. “Someone will sort through them – Thomas, probably. He'll find them a good home.”]

Listening to the replay of this week's NANCY FOR FRANK -- 3-hour weekly show on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio -- listening with fascination to a gorgeous orchestral arrangement of a song I couldn't 'place' – where have I heard this before? It's followed immediately by “New York, New York it's a helluva town” so it's easy to spot on the handy list posted each week by Nancy's co-host and producer Chuck Granata.

42. Brown (Jeff Alexander; FS Conducts Tone Poems Of Color)
43. New York, New York (FS In Hollywood)
44. Autumn In New York (FS – Capitol)
45. Violets For Your Furs (FS – Capitol)
46. Lonely Town (FS – Capitol)

Did I say wonderful show. Deepest thanks for a thanksgiving special to remember. How could you two ever improve on this one!

p.s. Is there anything you cannot find at YouTube? Hope this opens at BROWN
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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GEORGE BENSON - This Masquerade ('live')

Has it really been 40-plus years since 'This Masquerade' ?

I remember thinking the song was worthy to be included in the Great American Songbook. My favorite song of the mid-seventies, rivaled a couple of years later by Billy Joel's Just The Way You Are . . . and very few others! Warm memories, triggered by a note from our “Platinum Member MICHAEL ('I yam what I yam') posted at the latest "Nancy for Frank" show (November 29, 2020) on Siriusly Sinatra. Michael wrote:

“Mark, if you haven’t ever listened to Breezin by George Benson, I highly recommend it. I had the High definition sound LP version (still have it in my collection). Benson’s version of 'This Masquerade' is a sonic marvel, especially the short piano solo from the full album cut.“

The best song composed (words & music) by Leon (Delta Lady) Russell. And my favorite 'live' performance by George Benson (on a cruise ship in Europe, I think) was posted to YouTube 13 years ago, and recently topped 3 million views.

Something to watch for – one of George Benson's signature moves -- a special form of musical genius: Beginning around the 2:45 mark, at the start of the musical bridge, he begins to 'scat' -- wordless notes in perfect unison to those he's picking. No one can do this better than Benson.

George has been an (almost) life-long hero. I've always thought of him as the Oscar Peterson of the guitar. Or to invert the idea -- if Canada's greatest gift to jazz piano had played the six-string instrument instead, using just a plectrum flat pick then, Oscar just might have been "as good as George Benson."

A personal note for fellow jazz fans and guitarists:

Back when he was in his semi-famous “White Rabbit” album days – just before his career took off with “Breezin'” featuring “This Masquerade” - which crossed over to mainstream pop – a No. 1 album that went 'multi-platinum' George was signed to a several-million-dollar record deal at Warner Brothers.

Just before then, I remember George's first-ever appearance in Bermuda. A solo concert (non singing, just instrumental solos) at Hamilton City Hall. I recall he was playing a custom-made instrument by New York's James D'Aquisto, the master luthier who took over the factory that made D'Angelico archtops – forever the standard by which other great instruments -- Gibsons, Epiphones and Guilds – would be judged. (John Pizzarreli plays his Dad's 1953 D'Angelico, in 'live' TV appearances this year with James Taylor.)

Yes, this concert featured a string section and is so good it transcends the VHS tape quality video, you may agree. Or maybe you have to be 'of an age' to appreciate?
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Tidings of comfort and joy . . .

Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing more Christmas songs. And boy do we need it! Those of us who lost a loved one this terrible year ESPECIALLY need some of that precious 'comfort and joy' to remind us of what really matters in life.  My own father's father was an alcoholic who could disappear for a week at a time,  even at Christmas. When he was little boy Dad vowed that he would make Christmas special for HIS family. Boy did he ever! When I was 14 -- a home-made pool table; when I was 18, a Fender guitar amp. Stuff like that.

Dad's favorite Christmas song (sacred carol) was O Little Town of Bethlehem. I remember sharing with him, on the phone one night my favorite of its words:

“Yet in thy dark street shineth, the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.”

Yes, said Dad. Then after some silence he added: “Do you find yourself suddenly crying? It's happening a lot to me these days.”

Yes, Dad – listening now to my all-time favorite version of O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM . . . tears of joy. Coincidentally ...

My oldest son David and I were chatting this day in real time on Facebook and he sent a photo of a letter I'd written to him, this time of year, 17 years ago. 'Liner notes' for a double-CD of my favorite Christmas songs – which David enjoyed. Straight to the heart, reading as if for the first time, my opening words for Disc 1:

Dec 2, 2003

Dear David,

Hope this finds you and Laura Lee (their two wonderful kids were still in the future] in good health and excellent spirits. I tried to think of a special Christmas gift for you this year and this 'labor of love' was the best I could come up with!

It's impossible to create the perfect Christmas compilation for someone else. But I pray you find 'comfort and joy' in at least SOME of these. Let's talk at Christmas!

Disc 1 Track one

Jennifer Warnes and Dad's friend Bob Farnon's 'personal band' -- the London Symphony. Jennifer, who won two Best Song Oscars and was nominated for a third, combines vulnerability and strength in her own unique way: a lovely version of my father's favorite Christmas Carol."

[And oh the joy of finding it at YouTube this night]
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Admit it: there are movie musicals that some of us have never seen in their entirety – like Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS. (I was seven years old when it was in movie theaters for the first time in 1954.) Video excerpts from that movie never include "Snow." And no listing of Irving Berlin songs that I have ever seen, included it. At Wikipedia, for instance, the list of his most famous (for which Berlin wrote both words & music) starts on a familiar note:

"Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Cheek to Cheek", "There's No Business Like Show Business", "Blue Skies" and "Puttin' On the Ritz." Some of his songs have become holiday anthems, such as "Easter Parade", "White Christmas" and "Happy Holiday". "White Christmas" alone sold over 50 million records, the top single selling song in recording history, won an Academy Award, and is one of the most frequently played songs ever written .... "

But “Snow”? We have our friend "John" ("Modern Bing") at Sinatra Family Forum to thank for sharing this animated version – featuring a 50's-style passenger train (first by day, then by night). A pretty tune that repeatedly steps up and down in short intervals. But one we'd need to hear a few times for it to stay in memory. One of the singers sounded just like my favorite Peggy Lee. Was she in that movie? Search for: “Who sang SNOW?”

"Selections from Irving Berlin's White Christmas is an album with songs from the 1954 movie, White Christmas. Among the featured artists are Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Trudy Stevens (who dubbed for Vera-Ellen in the movie), with Peggy Lee, who was not in the movie, singing some parts. It is one of the last 78 rpm albums Decca produced."
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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CHET BAKER - Autumn Leaves

Subtitle: "Late Chet Baker, Early Steve Gadd."  Are we up for a little classic jazz from 50 years ago? 
My favorite bass player since the late 60's is RON CARTER – who turned 83 in May. I'm listening to a recording he made with jazz giants Chet Baker and Paul Desmond, circa 1970. Mr. Carter is among the three, virtuoso jazz musicians on that recording who are still with us.

Chet died back in May of 1988. He was 69. Eleven years earlier, May of '77, Paul Desmond had left us at age 52. Three young future jazz giants providing stellar accompaniment on that AUTUMN LEAVES recording – besides Ron Carter -- included pianist Bob James (who turns 81 on Christmas Day this year). His Wikipedia entry opens on the note that,

“American jazz keyboardist, arranger, and record producer, Bob James founded the band Fourplay and wrote "Angela" – theme song for the TV show Taxi.”

The youngster in that group -- Steve Gadd – turned 75 this year and tours with James Taylor. Steve's Wiki entry includes a Who's Who of musical greats he's accompanied in the intervening years since this recording (below)

“ An American drummer, percussionist, and session musician. Gadd is one of the most well-known and highly regarded session and studio drummers in the industry, recognized by his induction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1984.

Gadd's performances on Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and "Late in the Evening" and Steely Dan's "Aja" are examples of his style. He has worked with popular musicians from many genres including Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Harry Chapin, Joe Cocker, Grover Washington Jr., Chick Corea, Lee Ritenour, Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Al Di Meola, Kenny Loggins, Eric Clapton ….

[With Chet Baker now on Autumn Leaves]

Steve Gadd's percussion expertise extends far beyond “the drum kit.” His Wiki note concludes with this note:

He also has an LP Steve Gadd signature cowbell, modelled on the LP Mambo cowbell that he has used since the 1970s.[23]  According to Allmusic, Gadd has been credited with playing surdo, kalimba, timpani, tambourine, congas, Grand Cassa, bongos, timbales, snare drum, cymbals and palmas.
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It's friendly, it's fright'ning - and more surprising than an elephant's sneeze. What is? Why THE LOOK OF LOVE -- the other song of that name (not the famous one that you know). From the pen of my favorite humorous/romantic lyricist -- one half of Sinatra's personal songwriting team -- Sammy Cahn. Set to a wonderful 'makes me feel so young' melody by Jimmy Van Heusen. Back in the days when you could speak of someone being fat -- a word that 'don't get around much anymore.' [I live my life in song titles, can you tell?]
"I've seen the look of a jockey on a winner
I've seen the look of a fat man having dinner . . . "
It's true! You KNOW that look.
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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