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.