Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
Sunday, December 4, 2005
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
“John Williams: My Fair Lady”
Concert Review by Hector J. Guzman
If there’s something that can be described as cool it really must be jazz. Drummer Steve Houghton, who recently recorded John Williams’ charts for big band and quintet (initially recorded by Shelly Manne in 1965), sought Williams to conduct Houghton’s quintet accompanied by jazz ensamble on the charts Williams created in 1964 for Shelly Mann’s recording of the music from Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway hit My Fair Lady, as Williams’ explained in his introduction to the piece.
The opening segment of the program, featuring the Steve Houghton Quintet, opened with Lanny Morgan’s “Friends Again” and John Williams’ arrangement of Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here To Stay”. Cool guy Brian Stokes Mitchell joined in with two Cole Porter selections, “Love For Sale” and “It’s All Right With Me”. Great voice. The last two selections were performed by the magnificent jazz vocalist Diane Reeves “How High the Moon” and in keeping with the holiday spirit she closed with the classic “Let It Snow” by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne.
‘My Fair Lady Gets Jazzed’
From the earliest days of jazz, “standards” have been fair game for the jazz player who would display his interpretive and improvisational skills. With a tune that the listener knew already, the performer could embellish and investigate the material without the need to compose something fresh number after number. With classic ’20s tunes like “The Sheik of Araby” or “Tea for Two” and, later, “Body and Soul” or “I Got Rhythm” (both from 1930), jazz musicians created swinging versions of songs their audiences could dance to.
Duke Ellington and Count Basie mixed up their set lists with cover version of standards along with their own creations. Art Tatum was famous for his solo piano excursions, most of which were reworkings of so-called standards.
In the 1950, Broadway shows were recreated in jazz by many of the most respected artists (Oscar Peterson, André Previn, Miles Davis, and many others). Drummer Shelly Manne was involved in two celebrated versions of My Fair Lady, the Lerner and Loewe hit from 1956. The first was with Previn at the piano and Leroy Vinnegar on bass, for Contemporary Records. In 1964, with Manne as the leader, another jazz version of My Fair Lady (with the “un-original cast” as the cover declared) was released on Capitol Records. Vocalists Irene Kral and Jack Sheldon were featured, but the guiding force was arranger and pianist Johnny Williams, who was credited as musical director.
This legendary recording was recreated at the Tanglewood Festival in 2004, with vocalists Dianne Reeves and Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Williams conducting his original charts. Tonight, it comes alive all over again in Walt Disney Concert Hall.