[Dixielandjazz] Frede Astaire - Redux

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 3 09:04:45 PST 2004

There are those who consider Astaire a wonderful jazz singer and those who
do not. Depends on your ears. Here is a pitch for his being a wonderful jazz
singer, though perhaps, it was not on a par with his dancing ability.

The music (below) swings and the time is impeccable. And why not? The man
was also something of a jazz drummer as well as a tap dancer.

Note the arrangements also. I suspect Charlie Shavers did a few of them.
Charlie is, for the most part, also overlooked as a great jazz trumpet
player and arranger. As you may know, he did some very fine arrangements for
the John Kirby sextet 60 years ago. (like Sweet Georgia Brown which is a
classic swinger for that group as well as a very difficult arrangement to
play unless you are a MASTER of your instrument, like he was.)

Steve Barbone

Clef 1000 series (12 inch LP)
*    MGC 1001  The Astaire Story, #1 / Fred Astaire
*    MGC 1002  The Astaire Story, #2 / Fred Astaire
*    MGC 1003  The Astaire Story, #3 / Fred Astaire
*    MGC 1004  The Astaire Story, #4 / Fred Astaire
This collection of Astaire songs is a 1952 multi-album project entitled The
Fred Astaire Story. The project was a documentation of Astaire's career up
to that point, taking songs from his many appearances on stage and on film.
Astaire had worked with almost every major American composer of the century
thus far. The project was as much of a documentation of American popular
song during the first half of the Twentieth Century as it was of Astaire
himself. Cole Porter is represented (''Night and Day,'' ''I Concentrate on
You''), as is Irving Berlin (''Steppin' Out with My Baby,'' ''Cheek to
Cheek'') and Jerome Kern (''The Way You Look Tonight'') and the Gershwin
Brothers (''Let's Call the Whole Thing Off''). Backed by an all-star jazz
combo, with the likes of Oscar Peterson and Barney Kessel, Astaire gives
each of these tunes a spin that is at the same time full-bodied and gentle,
making this an excellent sampling of classic American pop music done with
the style and grace it often deserves but doesn't always get. Truly
excellent. (From the liner notes)

ALBUM REVIEWS (of the CD reissue)
Because he was world renowned as a dancer and quite popular as a movie
actor, Fred Astaire has tended to be underrated (if not completely
overlooked) as a jazz singer. Although not really an improviser, Astaire's
phrasing always swung and his occasional vocals on record were usually a
joy. This two-CD set is something special for it features Astaire with six
members of Jazz At The Philharmonic: tenor-saxophonist Flip Phillips,
trumpeter Charlie Shavers, pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Barney Kessel,
bassist Ray Brown and drummer Alvin Stoller. Astaire sings 34 swing
standards (many of which he had originally introduced in movies), dances on
three ad-lib numbers and sits out on the instrumental "Jam Session"; the
musicians have plenty of opportunities to stretch out. The biggest surprise
to this classic deluxe box (which was originally four-Lp's) is that Fred
Astaire did not do similar projects more often throughout his career. Highly
recommended. REVIEW BY Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

Fred Astaire might not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of
a jazz singer, but this installment of Verve's Finest Hour series samples 16
songs from the 1952 sessions in which Astaire joined Oscar Peterson and some
of Verve's best sidemen to lay down jazzy versions of songs he had made
famous in his Broadway and film career, originally released as The Astaire
Story. While Astaire was not blessed with great vocal chops, the best
American songwriters including George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and
Cole Porter loved him for his unerring sense of rhythm and sympathetic
treatment of lyrics, qualities that are well displayed here. Familiar songs
include "Steppin' Out with My Baby," "Cheek to Cheek," "They Can't Take That
Away from Me," "Night and Day," and "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails.

REVIEW BY--David Horiuchi

Dan Morgenstern    Liner Notes
Phil Schaap    Research
Gjon Mili    Photography
Norman Granz    Producer, Production Supervisor

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