One of the first questions younger listeners may ask about the recipient of this tribute album is, “Warren who?” The name is Harry Warren, and while he’s hardly as well–known or celebrated as Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers, Berlin or other icons of Tin Pan Alley, the marvelous songs Warren wrote — primarily for Hollywood films — were as popular in their time as any, and remain as familiar and often–played as most others in the Great American Songbook. Like every first–rank songwriter of that era, Warren had a remarkable ear for melody, a knack that is readily apparent in such classic tunes as “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “At Last,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “Serenade in Blue,” “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “September in the Rain,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “This Heart of Mine” and the others in this charming compendium. Cornetist Warren Vaché knows these songs like the back of his hand, and he and his quintet (including guest trumpeter Randy Sandke) give each of them a picturesque and comfortable ride. The two horns are typically self–assured, as is the stalwart rhythm section of Drew, Wall and Cobb. Vaché usually handles the melody, Sandke the harmony (with Warren’s brighter tone on the right channel, Randy’s heavier one on the left). It’s good, too, to hear several of Warren’s less–played works such as “The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish,” “I Remember You from Somewhere” and one of my special favorites, ”I Had the Craziest Dream” (which was introduced by another exceptional trumpeter, Harry James, and sung so marvelously by Helen Forrest, who recently passed away). Sandke wrote the smoky “Blues Times 2,” the only non–Warren number on the date. While there is ample space for improvisation (and everyone is impressive in that realm), this session is directly mainly toward those who appreciate tasteful and enchanting melodies. When it came to writing lovely songs that abide in one’s memory, Harry Warren was one of the best.
Track listing: This Heart of Mine; Would You Like to Take a Walk; Nagasaki; Medley: Serenade in Blue, At Last; I Only Have Eyes for You; The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish; You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me; Lulu’s Back in Town; I Remember You from Somewhere; Forty–Second Street; September in the Rain; Blues Times 2; An Affair to Remember; I Had the Craziest Dream; Jeepers Creepers; You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me (instrumental). (74:41).