“Stardust Melody” – Beloved and Rare Songs of Hoagy Carmichael – A Records

by | Jul 5, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“Stardust Melody” – Beloved and Rare Songs of Hoagy Carmichael – A Records (Challenge) Multichannel SACD SAAL 75103, 71:35 ***** [Distr. by Allegro]:

(Barbara Lea, vocals; Bob Dorough, piano & vocals; Jon Ferguson, bass & vocals; Dick Sudhalter, trumpet & Fluegelhorn; Dan Levinson, clarinet & C-melody/tenor saxes; Tom Artin, trombone; Ben Aronov, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Joe Cocuzzo, drums; Sy Johnson & Keith Nichols, arrangements)

Don’t know how I missed this delightful SACD which has been out from the Netherlands for a few years now.  The note booklet reminds us about the all-around composer-singer-pianist-actor who was Hoagy Carmichael, along with stills from some of the Hollywood films he appeared in. The three vocalists are excellent and perfect for interpreting Carmichael’s music.  Bob Dorough even explains how his parents took him to some Carmichael movies when he was a child and he decided to pattern his whole musical/personality style on Carmichael’s stance of “songwriter as performer-artist.”  It’s best described as a non-urban but not unsophisticated approach. Carmichael himself described his special sound as a “shaggy-bear” voice.

The project was trumpeter/author Dick Sudhalter’s baby; he wrote a book published by Oxford University Press, “The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael.” Each of the 16 songs has a paragraph about its background in the notes. Saxist Bud Freeman observed that he didn’t have to improvise much on Carmichael’s tunes because the improvisation seemed already built in, and Alex Wilder called Carmichael “the most talented, inventive, sophisticated, and jazz-oriented of all the great craftsmen.” The theme of most of his songs seemed to be nostalgia and a place, person or time. 

Dorough starts things off with his unique Carmichael bit on New Orleans.  The second track is a medley of two nostalgic states: Georgia and Indiana. Although there are a couple of big Carmichael hits such as Stardust (all three vocalist have a hand at it), most are unknown and rare discoveries by the Indiana native. Both Bread and Gravy and Big Town Blues have a wonderful blues feeling and make you wonder why they haven’t been heard before. A jazz feeling is strong in all of Carmichael’s songs.  The arrangements are terrific and all three singers really get into the tunes; this album should increase the appreciation of Carmichael’s song writing achievements.  The only sour note is the surround mix – the surround channels do not sound like part of a discrete 5.0, but more like front channels processed with a lot of artificial reverb. The center channel is well-used for some of the soloists, and the frontal fidelity is tops.

1. New Orleans
2. Medley: Georgia On My Mind / Can’t Get Indiana Off My Mind
3. Bread And Gravy
4. My Resistance Is Low
5. April In My Heart
6. Moonburn
7. Star Dust
8. Little Old Lady
9. Big Town Blues
10. What Kind o’ Man Is You
11. Snowball
12. The Rumba Jumps
13. The Lamplighter’s Serenade
14. The Nearness Of You
15. Manhattan Rag
16. Ev’ntide

 — John Henry

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