Bobby Short Is K-RA-ZY for Gershwin

Bobby Short Is K-RA-ZY for Gershwin

by Bobby ShortBobby Short
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Bobby Short embarked on his series of songbook albums with one devoted to Cole Porter, followed by a Noël Coward volume. Those seemed like obvious choices for a cabaret artist adept at delivering the witty patter songs devised by such verbal masters. For his third outing, Short turns to Gershwin, and in this case that name refers both to composer George Gershwin and his lyricist brother Ira Gershwin. (There are four early songs here with lyrics by others, however.) Ira Gershwin is a less obvious fit for Short than Porter or Coward, as his songs tend to be unabashedly romantic, and while they display a love of wordplay, not as devoted to sharp wit. The closer match of writer to performer would seem to be between George Gershwin, well known as a strong, ragtime-influenced pianist, and Short, who also accompanies himself on the keyboard. That turns out to be the case. As usual, Short uses only a piano trio for accompaniment, but he explores the jazz-tinged possibilities of Gershwin's melodies. Yet he also turns out to be a good match for Ira Gershwin's words, if only because he delivers them with the warm, upbeat mood in which they are usually intended. The song selection, aided by several Gershwin scholars, is anything but a list of the composer's greatest hits. Short does season the album with well-known standards, especially early on. But he often tries to give the more well-worn songs a different twist. For example, he takes "I've Got a Crush on You" at a brisk tempo, very different from the ballad style given to it by such interpreters as Frank Sinatra. And, taking a leaf from Ben Bagley's "revisited" albums of songwriter obscurities, for which he's recorded, Short presents a clutch of near-forgotten Gershwin songs. "Comes the Revolution," for example, which was sung in the musical Let 'Em Eat Cake, is unpublished and has never been recorded before. "I've Got to Be There" from Pardon My English is also turning up on disc for the first time. "Innocent Ingenue Baby" from Our Nell has never been recorded before in this, its original form. And being given their second-ever recordings are "I Must Be Home by Twelve O'Clock," "Hi-Ho," and "Feeling Sentimental." "I Was So Young (You Were So Beautiful)," "Do What You Do," and "Feeling I'm Falling" have been recorded more times than that, but not many. The advantage to the performer of having access to songs which are at the same time high-quality, in a familiar style, and practically unknown is that he can make them his own. And Short uses this advantage well, giving powerful readings of these and the better known songs. He even turns in a seven-and-a-half-minute instrumental medley of music from Porgy and Bess, though, of course, he sticks to the more obscure melodies for the most part and never goes near "Summertime." As a result, the listener is able to discover new aspects of Gershwin, a composer many fans probably felt they knew practically everything about, and this collection is more than just another excellent Bobby Short album; it's a trove of lost music reclaimed.

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