Friday, July 27, 2012

Hoagy Carmichael / Johnny Mandel & His Orchestra-Hoagy Sings Carmichael (Phoenix 2012 Spain)

In 1956, 57-year-old Hoagy Carmichael, a giant of American songsmiths, recorded this album for Hollywood's progressive Pacific Jazz label. Johnny Mandel's swinging, uncluttered arrangements placed Carmichael, a product of the 1920s Jazz Age, in an unadulterated modern-jazz setting true to both his past and the current scene. Representing the latter were several top exponents of the West Coast school that the label helped nurture, most notably the principal soloist: alto sax giant Art Pepper. Mandel's arrangements and Pepper's cool, rich eloquence clearly forced normally amiable, laid-back Carmichael to alter his usual approach somewhat. A subtle yet discernable edge permeated his interpretations of "Georgia on My Mind" and "Rockin' Chair" and rendered his vocal on the bluesy "Baltimore Oriole" unusually raw. Two lesser-known ballads, "Winter Moon" and "Ballad in Blue," are beautifully presented, and Mandel's joyously explosive, Basie-esque "Lazy River" unleashed Carmichael's playful side. While his songs are timeless, hearing a man then pushing 60 having a ball with musicians old enough to be his kids is always both exhilarating and inspirational. --Rich Kienzle

Digitally remastered two-fer containing a pair of albums by the American composer. This outstanding edition contains one of songmaster Hoagy Carmichael's best albums ever: the 1956 LP Hoagy Sings Carmichael, featuring the vocalist backed by such modern jazzmen as Harry Edison, Art Pepper and Jimmy Rowles, and with splendid arrangements by Johnny Mandel. In addition, this release also boasts a second complete LP, The Stardust Road. In fact, as was often the case in the early days of the LP, no new music was recorded for this album, as it was a compilation of selections first issued as 78 rpm discs during previous years. The Stardust Road, in particular, contains recordings made from 1939 to 1947. Hoagy can be heard here again singing his own songs and playing the piano on some tunes, as he was a very special pianist. Phoenix.