Recording Date: Mar 7,11, 2001
As it says on the back cover, Michael Feinstein With the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is the first recording he's made with a symphonic orchestra. For this special occasion, Feinstein and Alan Broadbent - the conductor and arranger for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra - decided to stick to celebrated songs from the great American popular songbook, ranging from "Stormy Weather" and "Laura" to "On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)." Much of this comes across as a slyly romantic, lightly swinging big band session - less Sinatra and Strings, more a tempered Ring a Ding Ding. That's hardly a bad thing, since it plays up Feinstein's classy, understated delivery and the skillful arrangements of Broadbent. A side-effect is that the album isn't as revelatory as it appears it could be - it does not uncover a new side of Feinstein, even if it's his first time with a full orchestra - but that hardly matters when the music is as assured and satisfying as this.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
As a singer and performer of classic American popular songs I am always looking for a unique or special way to present the songs that I love in a setting that will showcase them to optimum effect. It's like finding the proper setting for a diamond. If the setting is not appropriate, the diamond will not shine its brightest. Working with the Israel Philharmonic is one of the most exciting projects I have ever undertaken. The talent and commitment of these musicians is extraordinary, and their love and acceptance of these popular songs (that could easily pale in comparison to their normal repertoire of Beethoven and Bloch) was a wondrous thing to experience. Alan Broadbent's arrangements garnered applause from the orchestra, signaling their appreciation and commitment to this project. My desire, in working with the Israel Philharmonic, was to create the first collection of a series of recordings representing the best work of the songwriters herein. It is no coincidence that all of the composers represented here are Jewish. It's an extraordinary fact that most of the major American popular song composers of the twentieth century were, for some inexplicable reason, Jewish. There are, of course, notable exceptions such as Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael, how ever, the great percentage of output is of Semitic origins. Mind you, the Israel Philharmonic would have been just as happy playing the songs of Cole or Hoagy, but that's another album for the future. Now for a few notes on the individual songs.
Jerome Kern had a career that spanned four decades from the "aughts" until his death in the mid 1940's. For me, the pinnacle of his talent was expressed in the mid-1930's, when he was writing modern, sophisticated yet timeless melodies. "The Folks Who Live On The Hill'' is one of the most pastoral songs ever created. If's late blooming in its popularity, but is solidly here to stay, due in no small part to Oscar Hammer stein's lyrics.
Ay Coleman is perhaps the most successful writer of his generation to incorporate jazz elements into his pop and theatre songs. 'The Best is Yet To Come" swings just as strongly now as it did when it was first introduced by Tony Bennett. Carolyn Leigh supplies a lyric of erudition and dead-on honesty.
In 1943 Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn collaborated on their first Broadway musical. It was called "Glad To See Ya'" and starred Phil Silvers. For that show they composed their first major theatre ballad, introduced by Jane Withers. "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry" is written in the great torch song tradition, yet the verse of the song wryly comments on that self-same tradition.
"By Myself," by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, is another perfect creation from this sporadically prolific duo. This song works well, it seems, in any sort of musical setting. I love it equally as a ballad and an up-tempo creation. For this rendition, Alan created this arrangement as art homage to Nelson Riddle, with whom he had worked for many years.
Frank Loesser was a real renaissance man in the theatre and was known primarily as a lyricist until he surprised the musical community by composing his own tunes beginning in the early 1940's and practi-cally eclipsing all of his previous musical collaborators. Loesser's dramatic sense was keenly developed and "Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year" is a perfect example of that heart-on-your-sleeve quality evident in so many of his creations.
"Stormy Weather" is one of the most popular songs in the American song canon. It has often been copied and imitated and even today remains the prototype for many songs. Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler originally wrote it for a Cotton Club revue in 1933. Next to "Over The Rainbow," this is certainly Harold Arlen's most popular composition and, I think, one of his finest. His ability to incorporate Jewish and African American elements seamlessly into this tone poem makes it a special distillation of American popular culture of that time. The middle section of this classic is rarely recorded, because it was not published in the original sheet music. I transcribed it off a home recording as sung by Arlen at a 1938 Hollywood party.
Cole Porter and Irving Berlin were both asked, independent of each other, if there were any songs they wished they had written. They both answered, unbeknownst to each other, that there was one: "Laura." The creator of "Laura" is David Raksin, who is best known for having written nearly 100 extraordinary and eloquent movie scores. Raksin composed this theme in 1944 as a piece of background music for the film of the same title. Twentieth Century Fox was deluged with letters asking about the music and at Raksin's suggestion Johnny Mercer added a lyric. The song has been recorded over 200 times and in this version I have the privilege of performing it with the composer's own orchestral setting created especially for this recording. Thank you, David.
One of my closest friends was Burton Lane, who is one of the most underestimated songwriters of his time. He created the scores for "Finian's Rainbow" and "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)." The title song of "Clear Day" was a tune that was very special to Burton. Alan Jay Lerner wrote seven different lyrics before he got it right according to Burton. The perfect wedding of melody and lyric makes, I think, one of Burton's finest songs.
It is not easy to select one Gershwin song that I consider to be his finest, however "Love Is Here To Stay" is about as close as I'm going to get to realizing that impossible task. George finished the melody of the chorus and then passed away at the age of 38 due to a brain tumor. Ira finished the song after George's death, and even composed the music himself for the verse. There is no better expression of the eternity and evanescence of love than this song, which reflects Ira's personal feelings about his lost younger brother. I will always be grateful for my six-year apprenticeship with Ira Gershwin and feel that he would have been very moved by Alan Broadbent's orchestration.
Irving Berlin is the true renaissance man of American popular song. It's impossible to select one song as being his best, but my biased opinion is that his greatest ballad is "How Deep Is The Ocean." It was composed in 1932 during a creative slump and Berlin had not had a true song hit in about two years. "How Deep Is The Ocean," a song he almost discarded initially, is evidence that his talent returned fall-force. And how!
Leonard Bernstein enjoyed an extraordinarily close relationship with the Israel Philharmonic. There was a deep mutual love and admiration that is evident in their performance of "Somewhere," this classic from "West Side Story." Bernstein is musically beyond category. He was at home with any kind of music. "West Side Story," with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, produced perhap his most eloquent and sophisticate Broadway score. I was lucky enough to get to know Lenny. I only wish he could have been here to hear the Israel Philharmonic playing their hearts out for him one more time.
In the pantheon of songwriters who create both music and lyrics, Jerry Herman stands tall. My favorite song is from one of his lesser-known scores, "Mack and Mabel." After I recorded "I Won't Send Roses" for the first time many years ago, I discovered it was also Jerry's personal favorite of all of his compositions. He told me that he writes music and lyrics simultaneously. I think that's clearly evident in the seamless natural beauty of this modern classic.
I hope you, the listener, truly enjoy this collection of songs presented for your approval. It has been a labor of love, and my gratitude for being able to sing them knows no bounds.
- Michael Feinstein (August 9, 2001)