Thursday, January 6, 2011

Porgy & Bess and Harry & Lena

Okay for some odd reason I'm in a "Porgy & Bess" moment and out of all the recordings that are out there I decided to play the Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne version of "Porgy and Bess" which seems to be the jazz version of the Opera version but ne I think will most heavily borrowed from when Court Theatre mounts their "stripped" down version of if May 12th though June 19th. I listened to the 1959 Studio recording that's set up as one of those studio recordings that studios used to put out for all the Broadway shows that didn't sound anything like what it actually sounded like but that's what we got used to it. How many people grew up thinking that the Supremes originally performed and did the original music for "Funny Girl?" I remember as a child finding an album in our crawlspace of Diana Ross and the Supremes (Yep, even then I knew that's how the name only ever went and then thinking they had this cool sounding original song called "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" just for them.) Yep I grew into figuring out and loving everything (okay "Artificial Flowers" sill bothers me for some reason) that heard, realized that 10% at best is original and the rest is repeated on on and either you or like it or you love it cycle, almost like actual love doesn't it sound like.

Anyway a few words on this recording that made me think of all this.....

PORGY & BESS by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin

Harry Belafonte - He sings all the parts and tailors everrything this him as a performer and even found ways to surprise me. He uses a lot of gorgeous strong jazz tones to his opening "A Woman is a Sometime Thing" that really goes from power to casualness in just a line. He tosses off a restrained "I've Got Plenty of Nothing" with a casual vibrato tones that could be used to be slipping a cocktail to your intended knowing full we what will happen. Next up for Harry is the immortal "Bess, You is My Woman" a duet with Lena Horne who inflects her gulped jazz tones to this song the two of them show why they're separate stars. I don't believe for a second Lena Horne is Bess but vocally it's jazz perfection. His final song "Bess, Oh Where is My Bess" is the one tune that would have done better with a stronger more emotional singer then Mr. Belafonte can deliver.

Next up is our classic Billie Holliday without the issues, until the we all know the Alicia Keys Emmy Considerate'd HBO movie is coming but until then the original Ms. Lena Horne!!!! Opening her solo part on the studio disc with the immortal "Summertime" she's able to be dignified and give us those gorgeous jazz tones and still build the song to a bigger finish then you WOULD ever expect from a stylized singer like Ms. Horne can done. She's Lena Horne singing these songs but since this isn't a at album who cares. Her "I Want's to Stay" fits gives a reserved that leads into he's mine or else tae on he song. Her take on the classic "It Ain't Necessarily So sounds more like she recorded it for the pop charts which would have applied to this type of recording. It's perfect and with Lena behind it it's almost even beyond perfect. The next song is the tragic "My Man's Gone Now" sounds technical but lacks the emotional output this song deserves and even shows the limits to MS. Hornes talent. Thankfully she's able to redeem herself with a joyous duet of "There's a Bot That's Leaving for New York" that allows to legends a chance to sing a song that's tailored to what made them legends. Both of these icons are able to use their voices to maximum impact regardless if this is now how the material show quite be it doesn't matter. It's Horne and Belafonte interpreting the score inn stunning jazz tones and making an album you could play over dinner with a loved one.

This recording was made by RCA Victor in 1953. It included most of the songs from the show and Belafonte and Horne recorded two songs together "There's a Boat That's Leavin' Soon for New York" and "Bess, You is My Woman." The album was re-issued on a 2CD set in 2003 together with Jamaica by BMG Collectables in Stereo.


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