Art Tatum playing Tea For Two. I could say just that and say no more. I’ve played this version here before. This performance is from the Complete Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces on Pablo, Disc 4 Cut 11. I think it’s the best version on record. People who heard him in night clubs say he could play Tea for Two for an hour or more and never repeated the same riffs twice. There will never be another Art Tatum.
As I mentioned yesterday, the tune was written by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar in 1925 for the musical No No Nanette.
Fats Waller recorded his very fine version of Tea For Two, I believe, along with the tunes from last week on August 2, 1939. Most people nowadays think Art Tatum “owned” this song. But Fats, plays a very pleasing version of it. The song was written by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar in 1925 for the musical No No Nanette. This song has been recorded by almost everyone back then. Even Dimitri Shostakovich wrote an orchestra arrangement of it in 45 minutes on a bet. It’s a deceptively simple tune.
In July, I featured another tune—You’re My Everything— out of this same LP from 1955 titled Midnight at Eddie Condon’s with Bud Freeman’s All Stars. As I wrote then, “It took me some time and effort to track down an actual copy of the LP because it is long out of print, it was never reissued on CD, and only used copies are available, mostly in Europe. Worse yet, the credits on the LP cover are no help. The You Tube poster wisely chose not the mess with the issue.”
So, this time I won’t mess with the issue either, because I was not entirely happy with my hunches.
Time on my Hands is another standard from the swing era jazz scene. This is what I wrote when I posted Lee Wiley’s great vocal version of the tune with Joe Bushkin, ” Time On My Hands was written by Vincent Youmans, lyric by Harold Adamson and Mack Gordon in 1930. It became a jazz standard recorded by every one from Django Reinhardt to Russ Columbo.” The Lee Wiley version is so great; let’s hear it again:
I’ll See You Again was a waltz composed music and lyric by the famous British actor and playwright Sir Noel Coward. Sir Noel wrote it in 1929 for his operetta Bitter Sweet. This solo piano version is from the Art Tatum Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces Disc 3 Cut 8. Art Tatum plays this waltz softly and tenderly and yet he also makes it his own …. as always.
This medley was recorded for radio broadcast and later released on records including these early 45 rpm extended play records. The recording date was August 2, 1939. Music recorded on 45 RPM records began shipping in 1949.
Poor Butterfly was written by Raymond Hubbell and John Golden. The St. Louis Blues was written by W.C. Handy. In Poor Butterfly, Fats makes the piano sound at times like it is gently swaying in a breeze. In The St. Louis Blues, Fats creates new riffs from the song on some bars and borrows a few riffs from George Gershwin along the way.
Last week, I played the Bunny Berigan version of Caravan. This is Caravan by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Not sure if this was the first original version, but if not it’s close. The idea of the song was by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington wrote the original arrangement for his band in 1936, When Tizol moved on to the Harry James Orchestra, Tizol and James came up with another arrangement.
As I wrote last week, I remember that the first time I heard Caravan was when I was four years old. It is an enduring favorite of mine.
This solo version of Louise is from 1953 Disc One Cut 13 from the Art Tatum Pablo Solo Masterpieces. The song was written by Richard Whiting (music) and Leo Robin (words). Louise was made famous by Maurice Chevalier in the movie Innocents of Paris, The first sound musical from Paramount Studios (thanks to You Tube poster RReady555 for the refresher.) Tatum gives the song a complete workout, but with a delicate touch.
This recording of Everybody Loves My Baby is from November 6, 1940 with John Hamilton, trumpet; Charles Turner, bass; Slick Jones, drums, Al Casey, guitar; Gene Sedric, reeds; and Fats on piano and vocal. The song was written by Spencer Williams (music) in 1924 and lyrics later by Jack Palmer. The first recording of note was an early 78 soon after it was published featuring Louis Armstrong with Clarence Williams’ Blue Five. Afterwards, it has been performed and recorded enduringly throughout subsequent decades.
These small groups performing with Fats were really terrific. The regulars here include Gene Sedric, Slick Jones, and Al Casey. Al Casey takes a rare solo here, which also gives Fats an opportunity for a joke. In those days, the guitar was primarily a rhythm instrument. A friend of mine who played Rock guitar in the early 1960’s said he once played an old unamplified orchestra guitar from the 1930’s and he said the strings felt like he was playing on a set of steak knives. He was bleeding after a short while. I guess guitarists in those days build up thick calluses. The “good old days” were sometimes pretty tough.
Update 8-19-17: The first version I posted from Mr. JohnnyNumbers was challenged and pulled, according to YouTube. I doubt that it was the music itself, but perhaps one of the visuals. Anyway, I’ll try this version which only shows the record spinning. Meanwhile, here’s the rest of the original post:
Well, opps. I knew that Bunny Berigan had a famous trumpet solo and led his Orchestra on I Can’t Get Started (With You), but much as many people talked about this record, I guess I can’t remember ever hearing it. So now I find that he did sing the lyric as well on this record when I thought it was an instrumental. You never know what you don’t know. Nevertheless, it’s a great record. Like many musicians of that era, Bunny Berigan was strongly influenced by Louis Armstrong.
So, this version of I Can’t Get Started was recorded on a Victor 78 RPM record in August 7, 1937. Vocal and all. (Exactly 80 years ago to the day that I am writing the rough draft of this post.)
As with so many musicians of that era, unfortunately, Bunny Berigan had a drinking problem that went to full blown alcoholism. He was advised by doctors to quit drinking and quit playing trumpet. Like Bix Beiderbecke, a decade earlier, Berigan could do neither; that was his life. Bunny Berigan died at age 33 of cirrhosis of the liver. His life came to a sad, young ending but he should not be forgotten.
And next, here is Bunny Berigan’s wild version of Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington’s Caravan. Caravan is one of my life long favorite tunes. I first heard the original Ellington version when I was four years old. Great 1930’s glamour photos and editing by the poster.
This solo performance of Blue Moon by Art Tatum was recorded in 1955 and is on Disc 5 cut 2 on Art Tatum’s The Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces, Compact Edition.
Blue Moon was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. The song got off to a bumpy start having been rejected from two movies, mostly because of weak lyrics. Finally, it was used in the movie Manhattan Melodrama with a new lyric…and, as they used to say in those days, the rest was history. The first big record hit was sung by Connee Boswell on Brunswick Records. From then, it was a hit song numerous times in the following decades with a Who’s Who of artists.
Tatum works his intricate magic without losing the warmth of the tune.