Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » George Gershwin: Gershwin Performs Gershwin: Of Rhythm a...

21

George Gershwin: Gershwin Performs Gershwin: Of Rhythm and Constipation

By

View read count
George Gershwin: Gershwin Performs Gershwin: Of Rhythm and Constipation
Insert your favorite toilet joke here.

I tried. I considered dozens of poop puns, then finally decided nothing could top reality. So here it is:

In the 1930s, George Gershwin—already a huge star—hosted a radio show on which he played piano between laxative commercials.

It's funny, really, when you hear it. And yet it doesn't detract from the music, which is sensational. Actually, the Feen-A-Mint ads are kind of charming.

You can hear it yourself on a CD called "Gershwin Performs Gershwin: Rare Recordings 1931-1935." It's not hard to find. The CD came out in 1991 and it's currently out of print, but there are used copies available on Amazon for around $3-$8.

Gershwin's tunes are absolutely everywhere, and performed by absolutely everyone. I'm sure Elmo and Big Bird will record "Summertime" any day now. So it's easy to forget that Gershwin started as a pianist. He was a "song plugger" on Tin Pan Alley in New York, plinking away on the 88s to promote new tunes by his musical publisher, Jerome Remnick Music Co.

You can hear Gershwin playing his own songs—sort of—on a pair of CDs called "Gershwin Plays Gershwin." I say "sort of" because these aren't actual recordings. These are piano rolls created by Gershwin himself. So the listener, in effect, is hearing Gershwin play his own music. But it's not a direct thing. You can't actually hear Gershwin's voice. You can't really feel his personality in the piano rolls.

But "Gershwin Performs Gershwin" is something else. These are actual recordings from the 1930s. The quality is awful, as you'd expect. The first 16 tracks are from three radio shows. One includes an 8-minute "Variations on I Got Rhythm," in which Gershwin not only plays the piano but explains the variations. It positively brings Gershwin to life. In another, he jokes with Rudy Vallee after playing "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Liza" and "Second Prelude" on piano. (The jokes are corny and they sound scripted, but so what?)

And that's just the start.

On Track 17, Gershwin personally leads a 1931 rehearsal of his underrated "Second Rhapsody." It's a 14-minute treat. And on Tracks 18 to 22, Gershwin leads a 1935 rehearsal of "Porgy and Bess"—before it was ever performed publicly. This is history. You can hear him talking to the performers before each song. It's like watching the outtakes of "Gone With The Wind" or "Casablanca." It is electrifying.

And, of course, there are those laxative commercials. One touts Feen- A-Mint as a great advancement in the field of medicine. Another is a 90-second melodrama in which two traveling salesmen discuss constipation and the benefits of a certain chewable laxative.

OK, it's laughable. But it's also a snapshot of an era—as true to its time as George Gershwin on the keyboard and at the microphone, chatting about his latest Broadway show. Like the rhythm in the song, it's fascinating.

Track Listing

Signature; Of Thee I Sing Overture; The Man I Love; I Got Rhythm; Commercial; Swanne; Signature; Mine; Variations on I Got Rhythm; Love is Sweeping the Country; Commercial; Wintergreen for President; Variations on Fascinating Rhythm; Second Prelude; Interview; I Got Rhythm; Second Rhapsody Rehearsal; Summertime; A Woman is a Sometime Thing; Finale; My Man's Gone Now; Bess, You is My Woman Now

Personnel

George Gershwin
composer / conductor

George Gershwin, piano

Album information

Title: Gershwin Performs Gershwin: Of Rhythm and Constipation | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Music Masters


Comments

Tags


Support All About Jazz

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

How You Can Help

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

More

Painter Of Dreams
Misha Tsiganov
Eclectic Vibes
Ken Silverman
The Recursive Tree
John Blum / David Murray / Chad Taylor
Aloft
Natsuki Tamura, Satoko Fujii

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.