Day 6 Somewhere, on a boat in Vancouver Harbour…..

Thanks Novak Rogic!

We can’t get through George Gershwin week without “Summertime”, apparently the most recorded song of all time. A few chords, surprisingly interchangeable with Van Morrison’s Moondance, “Summertime” can be played in a million different styles.

The song rocked and shocked the musical world as the opening number to “Porgy and Bess”, the American folk musical that hit the New York stage in 1935 with a cast of classically trained singers and dancers. The musical was not finally accepted as an “opera” for another 50 years.

I bet you could have heard a pin drop by the end of the song on the first night. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the best of all the versions in my opinion, but this cheeky number took place on a boat in Vancouver harbour on 17th October 2012. This was only a jam. I flew around 5000 miles with my saxophone to be there. The jam was part of OpenEd (Open Education Conference 2012). And that night changed my life.


Day Five Happy Birthday George and Julie

“The Man I Love”. 26th September Birthday LOLS.

Celebrating the BIRTHDAY of George Gershwin, Julie London, and me (not that I can lay claim to such company), here is a great number by George – “The Man I Love”.

“The Man I Love” was another of pop’s repertoire. I love Julie’s voice because it is a complete contrast to all the bouncy rhythms of all the other great jazz standard singers; she was totally unique and smooth. Reportedly, she never felt destined to be a singer, and her voice was simply discovered whilst singing in the bath.

Day Four Rhapsody in Blue

Day Four “One foot in Tin Pan Alley, and the other in Carnegie hall”.
(Isaac Goldberg 1931).

George, born September 26th 1898 in New York and died in 1937. In the 1890’s his parents – the Gershovitzs’ emigrated from Russia, and George soon displayed a magical talent for the piano. His music teachers battled to get him to have a foundation in classical music, but his big love was certainly jazz. He was a stalwart of Tin Pan Alley where the big music publishers were based, and pianists like George would play the hits of the day in the hope that the new song would be noticed. George was also writing songs, and one early song “Swanee” became a huge hit worldwide as sung by Al Jolson.
His first hit musical was “Lady Be Good” – featuring Fred and Adele Astaire on the New York Stage. By this time, lyrics were by older brother Ira, and the musical featured hits including “Fascinating Rhythm”.
“Rhapsody in Blue” was one of several classical and orchestrated pieces of music and was a kaleidoscopic representation of New York sounds. Originally performed in 1924 billed as a “jazz concerto” the critics didn’t know whether to place it in classical or jazz camps. Imagine how “Rhapsody” would sit along side the other classical contemporary pieces at the time such as music by Rachmaninoff or Sibelius.


When did I first hear it?
My first exposure to “Rhapsody in Blue” was my dad playing it on the piano. He was an amateur concert pianist, and when up to full speed, our old upright piano would be rocking on it’s casters. This YouTube version is orchestrated and doesn’t quite have the charm of the piano-only versions I think. You can check George’s own recordings of course – if you can find one on YouTube without the painful adverts.

Day Three with Vince Giordano

Day Three Grooves by Vince Giordano and his Night Hawks

Day Three of George Gershwin week. I saw these guys at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2012 and they blew me away. Their glorious sound is partly due to the fact they play all authentic 1920’s and 1930’s instruments, and probably are the only band today in the world where you can hear the types of sounds that George would have heard himself.

This means revisiting “I Got Rhythm”, but I think it is certainly worth it.


Vince Giordano, Newport JF 2012, Photo by Viv

Vince isn’t just an amazing band arranger, but he sings and plays three of the bass instruments. He has a bass saxophone, a sousaphone and a double bass somehow all fixed on a springy metal cage so he can really leap about between them, sometimes during one song.


The Night Hawks, Newport JF 2012. Photo by Viv

You might spot the beautiful subdued lustre of the saxophones, and slightly different bore sizes that you would get today. That goes to create the lovely warm sound, not like the giant barking sounds you get from instruments today.