By: Sandi Durell
In the first of a series of evenings at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, the inimitable Michael Feinstein was front and center as performer and teacher celebrating Hollywood film songs with his usual brand of earthy humor.
“The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952, Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner) was the title of an evening of songs from Hollywood film classics. The haunting “Laura” (from the film of the same name) opened the evening and was also given a more insightful rendition later in the show. But if you ask most people they probably wouldn’t be able to name the composer of “Laura.”
David Raksin is that man composing the music with Johnny Mercer’s lyrics. The evening was devoted to celebrating David Raksin and Classic Film Songs.
Raksin began his brilliant career as a teenager, playing in jazz bands and joining Benny Goodman. He befriended George Gershwin who played an instrumental part in his career helping him get a job at Harms/Chappell. Eventually, he studied with Arnold Shonberg and orchestrated for Irving Berlin, Vernon Duke, and others, writing his first cartoon song “Hoofloose and Fancy Free” (clippity cloppin’ all the way) and in 1935 worked with Charlie Chaplin transcribing Chaplin’s whistling for ‘Modern Times’ and was the actual composer of “Smile,” (albeit you may not find his name on the song) – a reminder of its poignant lyrics sung and played by the master himself, Michael Feinstein.
The twelve piece orchestra, led by conductor/musical director Charles Prince, brought not only “Laura” to life, but many film themes during the evening, including “Forever Amber” (1937) a $6M film that lost money, based on the racy novel of the same name.
There were original old lyrics and the more familiar lyrics sung by Mr. F in a soft swing “Long Ago and Far Away” (the film receiving an Oscar nom) and a misty, dreamy “The Second Time Around” (Sammy Kahn, Jimmy Van Heusen).
Composer Harry Warren, influenced by Raksin, showed his true soul in “American Barcarolle.”
In later years, David Raksin wrote a tune for his grandson “For Toby, Who Has Jazz” brilliantly played by Lawrence Feldman on clarinet.
The orchestra was a collaboration of some of the best in the business, including Tedd Firth, piano; Lawrence Feldman, reeds; Dan Willis, reeds, Ron Jannelli, reeds; Tony Kadleck, trumpet; John Fedehock, trombone, Ray Marchica, drums, Robert Zubrycki, violin; Lorra Baylis, violin, Jessica Troy, viola, Stephanie Cummins, cello, David Finck, bass.
The evening was produced by Michael Kerker/ ASCAP.
Standard Time with Michael Feinstein continuing dates: February 4, 2015, March 25, 2015.