Jazz at Maverick

Perry Beekman & Friends

Perry Beekman, guitar and arrangements
Peter Tomlinson, piano
Lou Pappas, bass

Saturday, August 9, 2014

American Landscapes VII: The George Gershwin Songbook

program

Music by George Gershwin (1898-1937)
with lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)
except where noted.

Oh, Lady Be Good
(From Lady Be Good, 1924)
Nice Work If You Can Get It
(From A Damsel in Distress, 1937)
Fascinating Rhythm (From Lady Be Good, 1924)
How Long Has This Been Going On?
(From Funny Face, 1927)
Love Walked In (From The Goldwyn Follies, 1937)
I’ve Got a Crush on You
(From Treasure Girl, 1928, and Strike Up the Band, 1930)
Soon (From Strike Up the Band, 1930)
Love Is Here to Stay (From The Goldwyn Follies, 1937)

intermission

Liza (From Show Girl, 1929,
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Gus Kahn)

But Not For Me (From Girl Crazy, 1930)
‘S Wonderful (From Funny Face, 1927)
They All Laughed (From Shall We Dance, 1937)
It Ain’t Necessarily So
(From Porgy and Bess, 1935,
lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward)

I Got Rhythm (From Girl Crazy, 1930)
Someone to Watch Over Me (From Oh, Kay, 1926)
Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
(From Shall We Dance, 1937)

tomorrow

Sunday, August 10, 4 pm
Amernet String Quartet; Jon Klibonoff, piano


American Landscapes VIII: Cherish the Émigrés
Music of Dvořák, Mahler, Korngold, and Schoenberg

next week

Saturday, August 16, 6:30 pm
Actors & Writers


Speak, Memory: An Evening of Memoirs by Writers and Performers Past and Present

Sunday, August 17, 4 pm
Trio Solisti


American Landscapes IX: Piano Trio Landmarks
Music of Beethoven, Brahms, and Lowell Liebermann

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Perry Beekman is a guitarist and vocalist deeply rooted in the classic traditions of jazz. Now based in Woodstock, Perry has been playing in jazz clubs for the past twenty-five years. He has performed at the Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel and at the JVC Jazz Festival. He has performed at the Maverick for the past several years, including—with vocalists Bar Scott and Terry Blaine—the 2011 mini-festival honoring Leonard Bernstein. In 2012, Perry and his trio celebrated the music of Cole Porter, and last year they played a retrospective of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Perry writes: “My love of jazz began when I was fifteen and heard recordings of Charlie Christian playing jazz guitar and Billie Holiday singing. I knew then that I wanted to be able to both sing and play jazz. Shortly thereafter, I began my studies in earnest, and over a period of almost two decades I had the privilege of studying with a number of jazz greats, including the legendary pianist Lennie Tristano. I studied with jazz guitarists Sal Salvador (a featured soloist with the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the 1950s), Remo Palmier (who began his career playing with Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker in the 1940s), and Bernard Addison (a guitarist for the Mills Brothers in the 1930s). I have studied voice with the acclaimed Jeannette LoVetri, and received my certification as a teacher of her Somatic Voicework™ method from the Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University.” Perry’s CD, So In Love: Perry Beekman Sings and Plays Cole Porter, was released in April 2013, and his newest CD, Bewitched: Perry Beekman Sings and Plays Rodgers & Hart, was released this year.

Peter Tomlinson, piano, teaches jazz piano at Western Connecticut State University and at Vassar College. He has recorded with Jimmy Cobb, Dave Douglas, and Dick Oates. His most recent album, For Evans’ Sake, features duos with guitarist Peter Einhorn. Tomlinson performed the piano accompaniments on Bar Scott’s 2007 release A Little Dream, a collection of songs from the Great American Songbook released in 2007.

Lou Pappas, bass, is an adjunct artist in music at Vassar College. He retired in 2006 as bassist with the US Military Academy Band at West Point. He has performed at jazz festivals across the United States as a member of the Jazz Knights, as well as with performers Byron Stripling, Clare Fischer, David Liebman, Michael Brecker, Steve Turre, James Williams, and fellow bassist John Clayton. Mr. Pappas regularly conducts workshops and master classes, including appearances at the IAJE convention, the International Society of Bassists conventions, the New York State Music Teachers Convention, and many high school, college, and public school district teachers workshops. He has performed with the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Chappaqua Chamber Orchestra, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and the Westchester Philharmonic, and is principal bass with the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra. He is a former member of the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra. He received a master's degree in music from Colorado State University.

 


 


 


ABOUT THE MUSIC

George Gershwin got his first piano when he was twelve, and his talent was quickly recognized. He dropped out of high school and took a job as a song plugger, playing and singing a publisher's songs for performers. His next job was as a rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows, and soon he was writing songs as well. Before he was twenty-one, he had written a Broadway show and had several songs in print. Gershwin took private lessons in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration, and continued to write in both the popular and classical idioms. He brought jazz into the concert hall, performing his Rhapsody in Blue in a concert organized by dance-band leader Paul Whiteman. Other major concert works are the Concerto in F for piano and orchestra and the tone poem An American in Paris. These pieces, along with Porgy and Bess, which Gershwin himself described as a “folk opera” and which was not accepted as a legitimate opera until long after the composer’s death, have become staples of the classical repertoire. His Broadway shows, composed in collaboration with his older brother Ira as lyricist, included Of Thee I Sing (1931), which won a Pulitzer Prize for drama.

In the mid twenties, Gershwin traveled to Paris and met with Nadia Boulanger, hoping she would take him on as a student. After a brief conversation, Boulanger said she had nothing to teach him. When he approached Igor Stravinsky for lessons, the composer asked Gershwin “How much money do you make a year?” Gershwin told him, and Stravinsky said, “Perhaps I should study with you, Mr. Gershwin.”

Songwriting was changing in that era, from a strict formulaic verse-and-chorus form to a freer style, with interesting modulations, chromatic melodic lines, and unexpected harmonies. The eight-bar length of each line didn’t change, however, so those forays into uncharted harmonic territory were usually brief, resolving quickly in standard cadences. Gershwin also wanted to adapt the rhythms of jazz and Black popular music into standard songs. His songs evolved from the four-square march tempo of his first hit, “Swanee,” to the offbeat syncopation of “Fascinating Rhythm” and “I Got Rhythm” and the relaxed swing beat of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “But Not For Me,” and “Embraceable You.”

Ira Gershwin was George’s older brother. The family lived on the lower east side of New York City, in the Yiddish Theater District, where the brothers got their first taste of stage shows. Ira was asked by a producer to write songs for a 1921 show. His lyrics were well received, and he was on his way. George and Ira soon joined forces to write for Broadway and Hollywood. Together they wrote the songs for twelve shows and four films, until George’s untimely death of a brain tumor in 1937, at the age of thirty-eight. Ira took three years off after this, but then went back to songwriting, collaborating with Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, and Harold Arlen, with whom he wrote the songs for Judy Garland’s 1954 film, A Star Is Born.

Ira’s lyrics are clever and witty, often referring to contemporary ideas but also introducing timeless concepts to express emotional states. The first verse of Love is Here to Stay talks about new technology: “The radio and the telephone and the movies that we know/ May just be passing fancies and in time may go.” The second verse uses geological exaggeration for effect: “In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble/ They’re only made of clay/ but our love is here to stay.”

The Gershwins have a connection to Woodstock, since George studied music with Woodstock composer Henry Cowell for a few years at the end of the 1920s. Cowell, already a leading American composer, was then teaching at the New School for Social Research in New York City. George and Ira attended a 1931 soirée at which Cowell played his famous Banshee, during which he stands over the body of the piano and moves his fingers along the strings for an eerie sound.

Cowell invited George Gershwin to write an essay for his 1933 book, American Composers on American Music. He valued Gershwin’s music highly, advising him not to take out the jazz elements when arranging his music into classical formats. When Gershwin took Cowell to a performance of Porgy and Bess, Cowell called the work “an astounding achievement.”

Composition classes often involve exercises in which students are asked to imitate the style of Baroque or Renaissance composers. Cowell said of Gershwin: “He thought the rules of counterpoint were just about the silliest things he had ever come across….He would get sidetracked into sometimes using juicy and altered chords that he liked better, and would insert them into the Palestrina-style motet.” Cowell also said that he doubted that George ever felt there was any value in Cowell’s lessons, or those of any other teacher of standard musical practice. That is not likely to be true, however, since Gershwin continued those classes for several years.

In addition to providing the world with a full catalog of great songs, George Gershwin broke through the barrier that separated popular music from classical music, forever expanding our definitions of what kind of performance belongs on a concert stage.

All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg. It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy,  publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at miriam@hvc.rr.com. Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg