Saturday, November 21, 2009

Corolla Deluxe

Last night Michael and I were driving through the East-Central Illinois fog, listening to the syndicated radio program "Radio Deluxe," hosted by John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey. The program presents the aural illusion of being broadcast from a penthouse on Lexington Avenue in New York (though the program is produced on the west coast), and claims to feature what people like to refer to as the "Great American Songbook." The hosts sure spend a great deal of time making sure the audience knows who they are, but last night they neglected to give what would have been some much-appreciated information about the music they were playing.

They played, among other things, a recorded performance of "Oh Well" from Leonard Bernstein's On The Town (the 1944 stage production--the song never made it into the movie) by Tony Bennett and Bill Evans. Michael noticed that Evans was substituting the chords from his "Peace Piece" in his accompaniment (the chord progression is also used in "Flamenco Sketches" on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue). I knew the song as a Bernstein duet, and appreciated Evans' extended harmonies, but didn't recognize them as belonging to another piece (or two). Michael knows a lot of things that I don't know (so reader, I married him), but he didn't know that the song was written by Leonard Bernstein.

Though Pizzarelli and Molaskey waxed on and on about what a well-written song it was, they didn't even mention the name of the composer, or that the lyrics were by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Pizzarelli and Molasky also mentioned nothing about Evans' harmonic interpretation of the song.

With all the information available at the touch of a button, why do these people (who are musicians themselves) feel that it is acceptable to give so little information about the music they play? Who do they think their audience is? Perhaps Michael and I should start broadcasting radio programs from our 1996 Corolla. We could call it Corolla Deluxe.


Michael Leddy said...

“Who do they think their audience is?”

That’s the $64,000 question. The only audience that might find any of it worthwhile would be people who regard music as an accessory to their “lifestyle.” They need martinis, not bourbon or cheap wine. These people further the redefinition (and degradation) of “jazz” into some slick, faux-sophisticated, singer-centric upscale consumer product.

Anonymous said...

Most people know almost nothing of what a composer does, how he works, from where he derives ideas. Compared to the word and visual arts, music is an odd ball.

Most people can write a letter, so the in-out channel of symbols used as writing is rather equal. In and out. Ditto for colors and shapes and dramas and comedies.

But most people know almost nothing of what a composer does -- improvization being a kind of composition -- and even fine, accomplished players get a sweaty hand and gnarled brow at the mere thought of composing an 8-measure phrase.

For this, your audience in wanting to speak of such things is tiny, tiny and tiny. Save your thoughts for this fine blog, and enjoy your Corolla.

PS Corolla is also a cigar, but that's another story.

peregrine said...


I've had the same reaction when I've attended amateur ballet performances -- sometimes the composer of Nutcracker or Giselle isn't even listed in the program! An astonishing oversight.


Elaine Fine said...

Also consider the latest Disney holiday movie trailer makes no mention of Dickens, though he is listed as a co-writer in the IMDB.

Michael Leddy said...

The Evans story is more complicated than I thought: "Peace Piece" developed from Evans' playing of "Some Other Time."