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Howdy Neighbors!

It is now post time.

No less than five Wilsci Clip Joint events between December 3rd and 10th!

1. JAZZ MOVIE NIGHT at JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER presents: ERROLL GARNER – NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU READ – Saturday, December 3rd, 7PM in the Education Center (Time Warner Center, 5th floor) see below for more details.  Totally free!

2. Thursday December 8 – NOON – HARVEY GRANAT & Wilsci do a presentation on BURT BACHARACH for 92Y – 92nd St & Lexington Avenue, featuring DAVID LAHM at the piano!
Click Here for tickets & more info.

3.Thursday December 8 – 9PM – at Urban Stages – my special CELEBRATION OF 70 YEARS OF MANHATTAN TOWER featuring rare video clips AND live performances as well!  (See Below) and also:
Click Here for tickets & more info.

4. Friday December 9 7PM – at 350 W 57 – our Clip Joint Celebration of the great Broadway composer CHARLES STROUSE  – our guest of honor will be the great man himself (at the world famous KAPLAN APARTMENT, 350 W 57 #18A)

5. Saturday December 10 – 1PM – American Popular Song Society (Local 802 – Musicians' Hall, 322 West 48th Street, NYC) -Wilsci presents a special presentation – SINATRA! THE VIDEO RARITIES, including newly-discovered footage, a few remarkable finds that even diehard Frank fans will not have seen before. For more info, click here! 



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Varis Lichtman Studio Frederick P. Rose Hall, 5th floor (Broadway & 60th St)
Saturday December 3, 7PM

*free* for all!


(a documentary about the great jazz pianist,
introduced and hosted by Will Friedwald!)





Will Friedwald's CLIP JOINT presents



a 60th & 70th Anniversary celebration
In 1946, a composer and conductor named Gordon Jenkins invented the modern “concept” album with MANHATTAN TOWER, an original work for orchestra, narrator, and solo singers that became the spiritual grandfather of such classics as SGT PEPPER, PET SOUNDS, and TOMMY. Tonight, we celebrate this classic work (the subject of a recent article in The Wall Street Journal by our host and producer Will Friedwald) with an all-star cast including Carole J. Bufford, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Gabrielle Stravelli and Bill Boggs as narrator, and rare, vintage videos.
Click Here for more info.





this week on BROADWAY TO MAIN STREET, host LAURENCE MASLON and I explore the career of GORDON JENKINS with a special emphasis on his amazing and extraordinary work MANHATTAN TOWER.  Available on iTunes and through this link.  Join us as we sample the many recordings of the work, featuring RAY CHARLES, SAMMY DAVIS JR., ROBERT GOULET, DICK HAYMES, JERI SOUTHERN, CHRIS CONNOR and many others! 

Click here to listen!


torn from the pages of


70 (AND 60) YEARS OF 
An Album at the Corner of Corny and Sincere

Gordon Jenkins’s ‘Manhattan Tower’ all but singlehandedly invented the concept album.



In 1946, a songwriter and conductor named Gordon Jenkins all but singlehandedly invented the “concept album.” At least that’s the term later applied to this particular means of musical expression. His pioneering work released that year was titled “Manhattan Tower,” and it was a collection of original songs, linked together with narration and instrumental music, that told a coherent story in a manner that had obvious connections to musical theater but also used techniques from radio and film. “Manhattan Tower” was slow to catch on. But within two years, by the time that long-playing record technology had been introduced, it had become a huge hit—paving the way for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Pet Sounds” two decades later.
Heard today, “Manhattan Tower” is an amazing mixture. Parts are hip and funny (like its best-known number, “New York’s My Home,” later performed by Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr. and Buster Poindexter, among others); others are unbelievably hokey (like nearly all the narration). But, overall, this unique work still sounds innovative and fresh.
In 2016, “Manhattan Tower” is celebrating both its 70th and 60th anniversaries: The original version was released in 1946; 10 years later, Jenkins recorded an expanded edition, this time in hi-fi and as a 12-inch LP, that included several new songs (most famously, “Married I Can Always Get”). Both versions are available in the digital age, on CD and from the streaming services. (Jenkins’s third recording of the work, from 1964, featuring Robert Goulet, is also on Apple Music. Pop diva Patti Page made her own version in 1956.)
At the time he recorded “Manhattan Tower” at the end of 1945, Jenkins (1910-1984) was in the middle of a successful career as a musical director, most notably on radio. “Manhattan Tower” grew out of his fantasies as a young aspiring maestro growing up in Missouri, dreaming of hitting the big time in the big town. He’d first come to New York at about age 19, as a novice arranger for a then-famous dance band ( Isham Jones and His Orchestra), before his career took him to California. When he returned for several weeks in 1945, he transformed both his boyhood dreams of the city and his first, golden memories of New York into this unique musical narrative.
Culturally and structurally, “Manhattan Tower” is a very forward-looking work. Its overall structure is unlike anything that had come before, and even the individual sections are rarely in the standard, 32-bar AABA format of most popular songs. But what really makes “Manhattan Tower” something to ponder is that its content is just the opposite of cutting edge: It’s grandly sentimental to an almost absurd degree, at times hysterically corny—as when the narrator describes the key that opens the door to the tower as “Aladdin’s Lamp.” But it’s an absolutely sincere and even passionate kind of corn.
In that sense, “Manhattan Tower” has a lot in common with “Oklahoma!”—although in reverse. The score to “Oklahoma!” represents what two street-smart, Broadway wisenheimers, Rodgers and Hammerstein, presumed was going on in the souls of pioneer folk (people who say things like “feller” and “winder”). Conversely, “Manhattan Tower” is a love letter to Manhattan of the kind that only a somewhat naive but hugely talented young midwesterner from Webster Groves, Mo., could have conceived: a corn-fed notion of East Coast sophistication. Perhaps that’s one of the things that makes “Manhattan Tower” so powerful: The hero is gazing up adoringly at his Manhattan Tower with farm boy mud (and worse) still all over his shoes.
By 1949, “Manhattan Tower” had grown so popular that Jenkins was able to stage a live production of it at Broadway’s Capitol Theater and four years later at the Thunderbird in Las Vegas; in 1950, he performed selections from the work on the Ed Sullivan show. In 1956, NBC-TV produced an all-star spectacular, starring Peter Marshall and Helen O’Connell, based on the new “complete” version of “Manhattan Tower.” The live telecast was long thought to be lost, but the second half has recently surfaced in the Library of Congress; Ethel Waters steals the show, singing Jenkins’s gospel-style setting of Emma Lazurus’s “The New Colossus.”
Even after 70 years of concept albums, “Manhattan Tower” remains sui generis. Jenkins continued to create original song/story suites like “The Letter” (for Judy Garland), “The Future” (for Frank Sinatra), and “Seven Dreams” (one song of which inspired Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”). But none of those later works had even a fraction of the original magic. There’s simply nothing like “Manhattan Tower” anywhere else in music.
Mr. Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for the Journal.

To read this story at wsj.com, click here.







Saturday December 10 – 1PM –  at Local 802 – Musicians' Hall, 322 West 48th Street  -Wilsci presents a special presentation,  including newly-discovered footage and a few remarkable finds that even diehard Frank fans will not have seen before. Not on YouTube or Home Video! . For more info, click here! 






Varis Lichtman Studio Frederick P. Rose Hall, 5th floor (Broadway & 60th St)
Wednesday, December 21, 7PM

*free* for all!



and all your favorites …
(not to mention TOM WAITS!)

A very special





It’s Time to Retire ‘Fever’ (or "Curing Fever")

Musicians should stop covering ‘Fever,’ the 60-year-old song made famous by Peggy Lee.


By Will Friedwald – Nov. 18, 2016 4:45 p.m. ET

American music is full of great songs that are not sung as often as they should be, but there’s also one major, even iconic song that should never be sung again, at least not in its familiar form. “Fever,” which turns 60 this year, is both more than a song and less. More, in that it carries with it more baggage than its humble 24 bars should be expected to bear; and less, in that—in its original form at least—it always seems incomplete. Yet it is one of the few songs of its generation that is still frequently performed today in a wide range of genres and that nearly everybody knows—from the hit 1958 single by Peggy Lee and the hundreds of artists who have copied it.
“Fever” began with an aspiring singer and songwriter named Eddie Cooley, who brought the idea to a more accomplished composer, Otis Blackwell. They wrote “Fever” together, with Blackwell using a pseudonym (“John Davenport”) to keep the rights away from the infamously greedy publisher he was then under contract to. When the rock and soul-music pioneer Little Willie John was persuaded to record the song, “Fever” became a No. 1 R&B hit.
Two years later, Peggy Lee released her version, which is a very significant rewrite. A highly successful songwriter herself, she was adhering to one of the oldest traditions of the blues, in which performers didn’t so much sing one another’s songs as come up with their own variations on the basic template.
Lee’s 1958 “Fever” retains the finger-snapping rhythm from Willie John but changes virtually everything else, dropping the horns (and all the other instruments except drums and bass) and significantly altering the lyrics. Of the five stanzas in Lee’s record, only the first two are in the Willie John record. She also added an interlude (“everybody’s got the fever . . .”) that led into the next lines (the sections about “Romeo and Juliet” and “Captain Smith and Pocahontas”) and—finally—gave the song a proper ending (“what a lovely way to burn”).
That was what one did with the blues—you changed things and personalized them, took the essential idea and made it your own. Lee later said that she wrote the new lyrics; the claim has also been made that these words were written for her by Sid Kuller, who was well known in Hollywood for creating special material for headliners like Lee to use in their nightclub acts, revues and TV variety shows. Yet neither Lee nor Kuller thought to copyright these words—they were unique to her version, and that, they probably thought, would be the end of that.
Except that it wasn’t. In 1960, Elvis Presley set a precedent for using the Peggy Lee record as a starting point, including the bass and drums background (and finger snaps carried over from the Willie John record) and her words. From Elvis onward, hundreds of artists in rock, soul, jazz and traditional pop have sung those lyrics, thinking they were doing the song as written, not realizing or caring that they were doing Lee’s customized version. After a certain point, the publisher incorporated the Lee lyrics into the sheet music, without credit or compensation to Lee or Kuller.
Such latter-day divas as Madonna and Beyoncé have also given us “Fever,” using Lee as a foundation; the first (in 1992) adding a disco dance beat and reinstating some of the pre-Lee lyrics, the second (2003 and 2010) following Lee much more closely. Yet whenever anyone other than Lee sings the words written specifically for her, they sound like a mediocre imitation or parody. When Presley did them in concert, he was clearly going for comedy: At the line “I light up when you call my name” somebody in the band would shriek “Elvis!” in a comic falsetto.
“Fever” should have been retired after Lee and especially Elvis—it’s pretty much just a one-chord melody and a one-joke lyric. The time has come to let Romeo and Juliet finally die, as Shakespeare intended, and to let Captain Smith and Pocahontas go off to the happy hunting ground.
to read this story at WSJ.com – click here

this is why I subscribe to the WSJ.  diverse and interesting information!  thanks Mr. Friedwald.  

Mr. Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for the Journal.


American singer, songwriter and actress Peggy Lee, probably best known for her 1958 hit rendition of 'Fever' Photo: Getty Images 







The Song That Changed Christmas Forever

Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ shaped the holiday and its music

Although both the classic 1942 movie musical and the new Broadway production of “Holiday Inn” (which opens on Oct. 6) are crammed with spectacular production numbers involving entire chorus lines and elaborate sets and costumes, the uncontested highlight is the quietest song in the score. Near the end of Act 1, the singer and songwriter portrayed by Bing Crosby in the film—and now by Bryce Pinkham on stage—sits down at the piano and plays his newest composition, “White Christmas,” for his leading lady. That brief moment in a Hollywood musical, released eight months into World War II, led to a sea-change in American culture.

The modern celebration of Christmas scarcely existed at all before the war: There was only one classic Christmas song written in the 1930s (“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”) and only one major Hollywood Christmas movie (the 1938 adaptation of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”). The prevailing showbiz wisdom was that it made little sense to invest money and energy in a product that was salable for only a very short window each year.

Legend has it that composer Irving Berlin was in Hollywood working on a movie, and missing his family in New York, when he conceived of “White Christmas.” And the song’s verse, which Berlin himself later sought to suppress and removed from nearly all publications of the sheet music, tells of an easterner stuck in “Beverly Hills, L.A.,” where the shining sun and the swaying “orange and palm trees” make him nostalgic for a white Christmas, just like the ones he used to know.

According to historian Jody Rosen in his authoritative “White Christmas: The Story of an American Song,” Berlin’s first idea was to write a comedy song, deriving laughs from the contrast between sunny California and a traditional Northeastern winter scene. He initially wanted to use it in a stage musical, but unlike the show about to open at Studio 54, this was to be a revue—the customary vehicle for witty songs and satirical sketches—rather than a modern “book” musical.

But from the day that Berlin first brought “White Christmas” into his office in January 1940, it was clear that this was no novelty number. There’s an emotional resonance to the song not found in the likes of “Jingle Bells.” This bittersweet quality is likely connected, as Mr. Rosen notes, to the death of Berlin’s only son, Irving Jr., as an infant on Dec. 25, 1928.

The composer’s new idea was to place the song in the middle of a movie about an inn that doubled as a nightclub and presented songs for each of the major holidays. At the start of the war, both the song and the film “Holiday Inn” were blockbusters. It’s no coincidence that Berlin perfectly captured the zeitgeist—the situation in Europe had long been on his mind by then—and the song’s first audience comprised soldiers and those on the home front, who embraced it as a prayer for peace.

Yet, prescient as he was, Berlin couldn’t have predicted that his song would open the floodgates to Christmas music, a deluge that continues unabated. “White Christmas” arrived just in time for the development of the long-playing record and television, the two mediums that virtually invented Christmas as a commercial commodity. Bing Crosby’s record is still recognized as the most successful single of all time and, more importantly, changed the way we think about holidays. As Mr. Rosen notes, in its wake rabbis and Christian leaders alike began to encourage all Americans to celebrate this time of year as a secular holiday, one which members of all faiths could participate in.

The song later got a movie of its own, the 1954 “White Christmas,” for which Paramount Pictures wisely brought back Crosby but otherwise trashed what worked so well in “Holiday Inn.” In the eponymous film, “White Christmas” is staged like a big gaudy production number in an exceptionally tacky TV special.

Remarkably, the lyrics to “White Christmas” evoke neither Jesus nor Santa Claus, and promise neither salvation nor choo-choo trains. Rather, it created its own holiday mythology with itself at the center as a hymn for peace, love and family. Thankfully, the producers of the current “Holiday Inn,” unlike those of the 1954 “White Christmas,” are smart enough to trust that.

Mr. Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for the Journal.

to read this story at WSJ.com – and also the colorful ecumenical debate that follows in the readers' comments – click here



"White Christmas" as published in 1942, including the verse, suppressed in most later editions.









‘Ready Take One’ by Erroll Garner Review: Dancing on the Keys Once Again

A new release features previously unheard material from the jazz pianist.

Will Friedwald



There’s a live recording from 1958 featuring a legendary jazz pianist who introduces his band, one member at a time, saving himself for last: “and my name is Erroll Garner.” He then proceeds to play “On the Street Where You Live” with all of Garner’s trademark stylistic devices: the rollicking melody, the rococo embellishments, the sense of adventure and swing, the startling thumps to the bass with the left elbow. It’s classic Garner, but it isn’t Garner at all—it’s George Shearing. Most imitations of this sort are a deliberate parody, as when Sammy Davis Jr. impersonated Nat King Cole, but Shearing’s is a highly respectful homage in which he reveals how Garner’s style is so effervescent, so full of life and energy, that one doesn’t even have to actually be Erroll Garner to participate in it.

Garner himself died at age 55 in 1977, which was hardly enough time for him to fully explore all the implications of the piano style that he created. Though his recorded catalog is huge (143 sessions are listed in Tom Lord’s online “Jazz Discography”), every new release of previously unheard Garner material is cause for celebration.

“Ready Take One,” being issued by Legacy Recordings and Octave Music on Friday, is especially valuable: Six of this collection’s 14 studio performances from 1967-71 are original Garner compositions not heard since he played them live. “High Wire” is particularly catchy, with Garner stating the melody in the treble against a funky groove laid down by the bass and bongos, while “Wild Music” opens with the pianist heightening the suspense by starting with a grandly Tchaikovsky-like intro, before he lunges into the tune with an exuberance that’s remarkable even for him.

But Garner’s interpretations of standards were, if anything, even more compelling. Being familiar with the actual melodies allows us to look more closely at what Garner does with them—and often there’s a sense of duality, between tension and release, control and abandon. The most basic visual metaphor for Garner’s playing is the act of dancing. Yet in the standards, in particular, one gets a sense of two figures moving, and not necessarily in a social/partner kind of dance—rather, one can always sense the melody and, at the same time, another figure dancing around it. Garner isn’t merely a solo dancer, he’s a whole dance team all by himself.

In Garner’s hands, “Night and Day” and “Sunny” trade places with each other. Cole Porter’s 1932 classic becomes a bluesy riff that suddenly sounds completely contemporary, while Bobby Hebb’s 1966 pop hit is treated with the respect usually reserved for the upper echelon of the Great American Songbook. Garner imbues “Sunny” with a significance it never had before and, indeed, renders it worthy to stand besides the work of Porter and of Duke Ellington (who’s represented here with highly original treatments of “Caravan” and “Satin Doll”).

The set ends with “Misty,” Garner’s most famous original. Johnny Burke’s lyric to the contrary, Garner’s rendition is more shiny than anything. He makes his own tune glitter and gleam as if it were sewn together out of sequins— and the piano itself even seems to glow with a kind of inner radiance.

Mr. Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for the Journal.

to read at WSJ.com, click here!












Reprinted through the courtesy of Mr. Joe Lang and in deference to Mr. Dan Morgenstern & Mr. Ricky Riccardi.


"And that is the end of the news." (Noel Coward, SIGH NO MORE)

"Go forth and sin no more." (John 8:11)




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