Date of Release Apr 28, 1959 (release) inprint (includes two bonus tracks)
For this concert (which has been reissued on CD with two additional tracks), singer Peggy Lee teams up with the 1959 George Shearing Quintet, plus their usual special guest Armando Peraza on conga. Lee sounds quite happy to perform with Shearing - her cool tone fits in very well with the Shearing Quintet's distinctive sound - and she is in excellent form on such tunes as "If Dreams Come True," "All Too Soon," "You Came a Long Way from St. Louis" and her own "There'll Be Another Spring"; there are also three instrumentals, including "Isn't It Romantic?"
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Beauty and the Beat is like when a beautiful but formal woman, normally the height of elegance, invites you over for a drink and, to your surprise and delight, offers to slip into something a little more comfortable; the polished pussycat turns into a sensual tiger. Not that Peggy Lee isn't always exciting, but Miss Lee takes the most pride in controlling every aspect of her performance, from the scenery to her eyelashes to every last note that will be heard. Like Sinatra and very few others, Lee not only controlled the selection of every song on every one of her albums, but provided her arrangers with a sketch out of exactly how she wanted said songs to be orchestrated. It's rare to find her in surroundings so comfortable that she can really let go, to be so totally prepared that she can be completely spontaneous.
The album resulted from the then decade-long friendship and mutual admiration between Miss Lee and another remarkable artist celebrated for the discipline and new textures he brought to jazz, George Shearing. Shearing and Lee first met about 1948, thanks to Leonard Feather, the husband of her ex-room-mate Jane Larrabee, who had shared an apartment with Miss Lee in Chicago in her immediate pre-Benny Goodman period. Shearing had been a Peggy Lee fan since hearing her on the few Goodman records which somehow spanned the Atlantic and reached him in London in the dark days of the second world war. "Take Peggy's (1957) record of The Folks Who Live On The Hill' with Nelson Riddle and Sinatra conducting," says Shearing, "I could listen to that at least six times in a row without getting tired of it."
But Lee, like most Americans, at that time had never heard of Shearing, although he had recorded prolifically in his native England, thanks largely to friend and rabbi Leonard Feather. "My late husband, Dave Barbour, and I lived at the Hampshire House in New York, and we were giving a party at the cottage room there," Miss Lee recalls. "So, we I asked Leonard Feather, the noted jazz critic, if he could get me a pianist for this cocktail party. And to my amazement, he brought in this fantastic pianist and it was George. "Says Shearing, "This party with Peggy was so early in my American career that it was really before I became George Shearing. It was even before I became fussy enough to announce that 'there will be no talking.'"
Miss Lee continues, "The party was for the press, it was really a big big turnout and a really lovely party. But I did something very strange. The press was all there, and I should have been talking to them, but after I heard this wonderful sound coming from the piano," instead of shmoozing with the reporters and columnists, "I spent all my time leaning over the piano, just listening to George." Not long after, when Feather helped Shearing put together the now-legendary George Shearing Quintet, Lee, along with the rest of the country, went crazy over it.
They remained friendly, but chances of working together on record were slim while Shearing remained the one major jazz artist on MGM records and Peggy Lee recorded for Decca exclusively for most of the '50s. Then, Shearing re-located to Capitol Records precisely for the purpose of working on projects such as this that went beyond the sound of the strict quintet all by itself. "I wanted to move on because I was becoming interested in doing string albums and things like that, and Capitol was more ready to do those kind of things," Shearing recalls. "MGM had some wonderful people, but Dave Cavanaugh was a more resourceful producer than anyone I had experienced at MGM. The marriage between Cavanaugh and I as producer and performer was among the better such marriages in our business."
Then, Miss Lee, who had done her premiere recordings outside of Goodman's band on Capitol a decade earlier, returned to the label, with some instigation from her Bowmont Avenue neighbor, Mr. Sinatra, with The Man I Love album in 1957. In 1959, producer Cavanaugh, then handling sessions by Sinatra, Lee and Shearing, among others, took steps to bring Peggy and George together on an ambitious project. Not only would it be their only recording together (so far), it marked the first live album either artist had attempted. A national convention of disc jockeys, to be held in Miami that May, would provide, in Hitchcock's phrase, the "MacGuffin" that would bring Lee and Shearing together on an in- person recording.
"It was Dave's idea to put us together," says Miss Lee. "I recall that we flew down to Florida, and our plane got caught in a storm, and couldn't land for a little while. Jack Marshall (one of Lee's regular accompanists at this time) took out his guitar and started playing 'Nearer My God To Thee." However, if the landing was rough, the preparation of the concert / recording session was rougher still.
The next few days were a blur for Lee and Shearing, the two of them laboring for 72 hours straight to select the tunes and their keys, and work out their arrangements. "We started from scratch with all new arrangements," Miss Lee points out, "We used head arrangements, because George is blind and doesn't use written music. Jack Marshall may have helped George get some of the routines down for the show." "We just discussed the tunes between us, the same as I do with every singer that I've worked with," says Shearing, "We had various ideas, some of which we dismissed, some of which we adopted." "We kept working these songs out and rehearsing as we went," Lee continues, "until George had all the harmonies and everything going."
"I was so exhausted, I don't remember the performance too well, I just remember standing there," says Miss Lee. Unlike most other live albums of the era, such as the Count Basie sets recorded at the same convention two nights later (currently available on Mosaic), the twelve tunes that actually made their way onto the final album, are probably all that Lee and Shearing performed that night, 29 May, owing to the pressure of having to create an entire program on such short notice. Also, the standard discographies list the matrix numbers Capitol assigned to these tunes in completely different order, with two Shearing instrumentais at the start rather than the middle, and even Phil Schapp (sp?) couldn't say whether the matrix numerical order or the final LP sequence represents the order in which the songs were actually recorded.
The opening track, with a sublimely relaxed and swinging Lee romping through the first of three Cole Porter songs on the set, "Do I Love You?" shows that their hard work paid off. On virtually no other of her dozens and dozens of albums does Lee's cool flame burn so hotly. The two slow blues, both with mid-western orientations, anticipate the Lee-Quincy Jones collaboration, Blues Cross Country), and the first of the two, "I Lost My Sugar (In Salt Lake City)" also turns up on that 1962 album in a very different, big band treatment. Both "...Salt Lake City," and the second quasi-blues, John Benson Brooks's "You Came A Long Way From St. Louis," display Lee's remarkably sympathetic gift for the blues. On both, Shearing temporarily jettisons his familiar vibes-and-piano quintet sheen for a more earthily atavistic approach, offering slow sustained blues chords behind Lee's extending of the tune through all sorts of sinewy twists and turns (Lee had already made a standard of Brooks's exotic masterpiece, "Where Flamingos Fly").
Lee dedicates Edgar Sampson's "If Dreams Come True" to her old boss, Benny Goodman, who played it at his epochful Carnegie Hall concert in 1938, and the quintet comes up with a respectfully Fletcher Hendersonian style riff pattern to play behind her. One of the most moving memorial songs ever written, "All Too Soon," is announced as a tribute to the late Mildred Bailey, but to my mind her breathy exhilations of Duke Ellington's melody more specifically recall the way Ben Webster exposed it on the initial recording. Still, inspired by Bailey and Carl Sigman's lyric, Lee puts all the sweetness there, and the piece is every bit as haunting as more recently when Tommy Flanagan played it at the funeral service for Zoot Sims.
Of the following two instrumentals, "Isn't It Romantic," introduced with typical Shearing verbal wit, offers the pure quintet without extra added ingredients. "Mambo In Miami" is the kind of bright, swinging and concise latin-percussion specialty that no one did better the GSQ. For thirty years, the principle attraction of the Quintet was the shimmering texture of the piano - vibes - guitar unison phrasing, when Shearing adds to that sound the hypnotically pallid coloration of traditional latin band piano sound as well as the additional rhythmic interest of exotic percussion, played by the six member of the Quintet, Armando Peraza, the group reached an all time peak.
Lee returns with a sprightly and highly original up-beat rendition of one of friend Gordon Jenkins's supreme downers, "Blue Preiude," demonstrating that one can turn this into a fast and happy blues no less than the best works of W. C. Handy Or Count Basie. Similarly, the classic Lee-Jenkins, reading of "Lover," Lee remembered, even convinced the infamously stodgy Richard Rodgers himself that, "If you don't change the interpretation of songs after a bit, they will die." Hopefully, Cole Porter bore that in mind when he heard the no-less radical Shearing-Lee treatment of "Always True To You In My Fashion," which, by grinding the melody and meaning through the Shearing-Peraza axis, succeeds as a rare instance when this particular song succeeds outside of the context of its original show, Kiss Me Kate.
"I wouldn't be much of a songwriter," Lee announces, "if I didn't take advantage of a wonderful opportunity like this to plug one of my own songs." "There'll Be Another Spring," a typically hauntingly sensitive ballad by Miss Lee and Hubie Wheeler, previously best known for his arrangements for Les Elgart's band, receives its debut recording here. "I wrote that one morning at 8:00. I was feeling really low, and I went over to Hubie's house, in fact," Miss Lee recalls, and before she left, they had started and finished "Another Spring." Miss Lee evidently regards this as one of her crowning achievements as a tunesmith, seeing as she chose it as the subtitle of her most recent release, The Peggy Lee Songbook (MusicMasters 5034). She also notes that the song has "lasted longer than the love affair that prompted it."
"Get Out Of Town" triumphs as one of Lee's purest jazz masterpieces, as she swiags the piece as hard as possible (in the Lee-Shearing universe that is), minimalizing any sort of poetic ramifications of the text for pure rhythmic drive, and claiming some of the turf reserved for Ella Fitzgerald and Anita O'Day. The set ends quietly with a piece not by Lee but obviously dedicated to her, "Satin Doll," the third instrumental. It seems unlikely Lee, Shearing or Cavanaugh, would have closed with an instrumental, especially a bass feature, although the tune with the highest matrix number turns out to be another instrumental, "Mambo In Miami," heard earlier on the final, released sequence.
Within days of the convention, the threesome were at work transforming the tapes of the event into an album. At the original concert, Lee and Shearing had generally seguewayed from one tune to another without saying anything, and some of the announcements that were there had been off-mike. However, to make it sound even more "live," Cavanaugh decided that each tune should have a spoken intro. As a result, although the album is live, most of the announcements were actually done in the studio (bearing that knowledge in mind, Lee's talk over the start of "Get Out Of Town" seems particularly suspect).
"We were all pretty much wrecked," Miss Lee recalls. "They had a talk-back set up for Dave, and he would speak to us from the control room. His feet were so swollen for having been on them for so many hours, and he had to put them on some sort of pedal pedal thing that would open up the mike. Poor Dave! The thing wasn't working right, and every time he would touch his feet to the pedal, he would get a mild electric shock! That would wake him up a little bit."
While in the studio, Lee and Shearing decided to record an additional two tunes, both heavy favorites of Miss Lee, Jerome Kern's "Don't Ever Leave Me" and Richard Rodgers's "Nobody's Heart." She respected the final decision to go with the live tracks by themselves, although she regretted that the two studio cuts never saw the light of day. Neither uses the quintet proper. Lee's tender reading of "Nobody's Heart" gets backed by Shearing with standard '50s trio instrumentation, piano, bass and drums (mainly brushes). Strictly a duo, "Don't Ever Leave Me," is one of the most emotionaily naked statements I've ever heard from either musician, Lee sounding so vulnerable and completely exposed one almost feals like a voyeur in listening to her.
The last thing that Lee and Shearing created in the studio was the one thing you would have sworn was genuine: the cover photo. "I know I had a very pale, silver blue lame gown on at the disc jockey convention, as opposed to the one on the cover, which was a taffeta white," recalls Miss Lee. She further describes her Miami dress as "very slinky," and my own theory is that Capitol didn't put the shots taken at the convention on the cover for fear of giving everyone "Fever." However, Miss Lee explains that the photographers just weren't able to get a satisfactory shot of the two of them during the actual show.
Today, Lee is thrilled that the two studio cuts are going back on the album. Although they never recorded jointly again, Lee and Shearing occasionally worked together live over the previous 30 years. Furthermore, Toots Thielemans, then Shearing's guitarist, for several years toured in her troop as both accompanist and "intermission" act.
"I loved working with George," concludes Miss Lee. "All I can say is that I haven't worked enough with him, and I would love to do it again."
- Will Friedwald (Jazz Singing, Collier Books)