In today’s world, getting this many Italian-Americans together in one place probably violates some racketeering laws. But back in the early 1950s, come to think of it, was probably a crime too! Violinist Joe Venuti (1903-1978) achieved lasting jazz fame for his duets with guitarist Eddie Lang in the 1920s and 1930s. He worked with Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Hoagy Carmichael, Bing Crosby, Paul Whiteman, and Zoot Sims. In 1937 he met guitarist Tony Romano. Romano built a career as a guitarist/composer/arranger/singer/actor, touring with Bob Hope’s USO shows from World War II through Vietnam.
This recording is actually two dates. The first eight tracks come from a duo organized by Johnny Mercer in 1954. Venuti and Romano seem to read each other’s thoughts easily sliding into these standards and original tunes. In today’s hip multi-ethnic culture we would marvel at the diversity of Romano’s Italian arrangement of the traditional “Angelina.” Back then, the two friends merely played the familiar. Venuti’s violin playing weaves the European with swing fiddle. No guitar face here, it’s all love.
The remainder of the disc was from a 1953 session sans Venuti plus a lengthy interview with Tony Romano. Romano displays a deft talent at song, sounding like a Sinatra crooner with a Dean Martin delivery. Back when jazz and popular (pop?) music went hand-in-hand, a good melody or sweet delivery made careers. Guys like Venuti and Romano probably won’t be mentioned in Ken Burns’ PBS jazz spectacle, but they were important pieces in our American story of jazz music.
Track Listing: You Know You Belong To Someone Else; Feeling Free An Easy; Almost Like Being In Love; Autumn Leaves; I Want To Be Happy; Summertime; I Remember Joe; Angelina; Interview With Tony Romano; New England In The Fall; It
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.