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It takes an album like this to fully comprehend and perhaps even appreciate the contributions Hoagy Carmichael made to American popular music. Tunes like his "I Get Along without You Very Well", "The Nearness of You", "Skylark" and of course, one of the most oft recorded songs in popular music history, "Stardust", are woven deeply into the fabric of popular song. A group of veteran jazz and non-jazz performers have gotten together for an album to honor Carmichael with a play list of some of his best known and his less familiar compositions. The driving force behind this undertaking is Dick Sudhalter who produced the album and plays trumpet and flugelhorn. The CD's release coincides with the publication of his Carmichael biography which has the same title as this album, Stardust Melody. The subtitle of the CD is a bit odd, implying that Carmichael's rare material somehow can't be beloved at the same time. Yet, some of the rarer material provides some of the best minutes, such as "Little Old Lady" where Sudhalter on muted trumpet, Bob Dorough on piano, Jim Ferguson on bass coupled with on the mark drum breaks by Joe Cocuzzo, give this oldie an almost 6 minute jaunty stroll down musical lane. On the other hand some of the material reminds us that even a composer with the substantial skills of a Hoagy Carmichael can't hit a home run each time at bat. "The Rhumba Jumps", written with Johnny Mercer for the 1940 Broadway Show Three after Three, is one that falls into the not so successful category. But this is a rare occurrence. Seasoned cabaret singer, Barbara Lea, brings a special flavor to the tunes she has been chosen to sing because of her ability to tell the story of the lyrics. Cult figure Dorough's vocals emphasize that down home quality that permeates most of Carmichael's work. Jim Ferguson, in addition to his duties as the bassist, also adds his pleasant vocalizing on some tracks. This album is a fitting 72 minute tribute to a major author of the Great American Popular Songbook.
Track Listing: New Orleans; Medley: Georgia on My Mind/Can't Get Indiana off My Mind; Bread and Gravy; My Resistance Is Low; April in My Heart; Moonburn; Stardust; Little old Lady; Big Town Blues; What Kind o' Man Is You; Snowball; The Rhumba Jumps; The Lamplighter's Serenade; The Nearness of You; Manhattan Rag; Ev'ntide
Personnel: Barbara Lea - Vocals; Bob Dorough - Piano/Vocals; Jim Ferguson - Bass/Vocals; Dick Sudhalter - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Dan Levinson - Clarinet/C-Melody & Tenor Sax; Tom Artin - Trombone; Ben Aronov - Piano; Howard Alden - Guitar; Joe Cocuzzo - Drums; Sy Johnson, Keith Nichols - Arrangements
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.