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REACHING FOR THE MOON: songs of Irving Berlin

Join Kathryn Allyn & Trio, led by jazz pianist and bandleader Frank Ponzio for an examination of a towering figure in American music.  George Gershwin called him "the greatest songwriter that has ever lived"; Jerome Kern said that he “has no place in American music—he is American music."  In a 60-year career, Irving Berlin gave us a staggering 1,500 songs, 19 musicals and 18 Hollywood films.  His songs have been recorded by every musician you’ve ever (and never) heard of, hitting the top of the charts time and time again, year after year, decade after decade. The biggest challenge was choosing. see more

V IS FOR VICTORY DISC: Doing it for Defense

During WWII, the Pentagon waded into a musicians' strike to produce morale-boosting records for the troops. Ultimately, the great acts of the day -- Hoagy, Louie, Glenn, Dinah, Peggy, Frank, Jo, Ella, Tommy, Martha, Betty, everybody who was anybody-- laid down tracks for the Army. In all, the Army recorded, pressed and shipped 8,000,000 records to soldiers scattered all over three continents. It's a great story, and the soundtrack to this story features many of the standards we know and love, plus a selection of rarities, which thanks to the smuggling efforts of our soldiers and the preservation by the Library of Congress, have not been lost to time. Join Kathryn Allyn and Trio, led by jazz pianist and musical director Frank Ponzio, as they tell the tale and sing these great songs.... see more

BLUEPRINT SPECIALS: The US Army Did Something Good!

During WWII, aside from the whole USO wonder and in addition to the Victory Disc Program kerfuffle, the government also? Assigned likely soldiers to create Do-it-yourself musical theater kits.  Likely lads filled a box with everything needed for soldiers to perform a show for their fellows, and the boxes were shipped off to corners of the globe the USO couldn’t reach. The kit, arriving in the mail call, contains [insert jazz hands] A Show!, and includes a rundown of production staff needed and their jobs descriptions, a score, orchestra parts, script, sketches and instructions to build the sets, costumes and lighting -- and this bit is key -- all drawn from stuff a fellow could find in the mess, his footlocker or the trash...see more

PLAYING HARD TO GET

Over the years, on public radio, public television and sundry online locales, I heard great singers singing songs that surprised me and lingered in my memory. Too often, I went looking for sheet music only to find it unavailable; my favorites were inevitably out of print. Having accumulated a list of orphan songs, I decided to take them down from the recordings and arrange them -- getting help early and often from friends and, after the charts were made, turning to the band for advice and expertise. In many cases, significant reductions were needed; the songs had to be entirely re-conceived. But after a yeoman's work, we had a set of the unknown jewels and neglected gems of the Swing Era: tunes from Jo Stafford, Julia Lee, Billy Holiday and Betty Hutton, all arranged for single voice and trio. Hence the name of the set -- Playing Hard to Get – a sheet music joke...see more

ON DIRTY BLUES

“Spinach has vitamins A, B and D. spinach never appealed to me.
But one day, having dinner with a guy, decided to give it a try.
didn’t like it the first time…. Oh, how it grew on me!”

“I Didn’t Like it the First Time” has been my mother's earworm all my life.  Periodically, she’d nudge, “You should do the Spinach Song!”  The tune was a favorite of her parents; my grandparents were known to roll up the rug in the living room and dance the night away. I gave in, took a look at it and called home. “So, Mom, the song about the spinach.  I don’t think it's about spinach..." Her, exasperated, "Well, of course not, honey; it's about sex. [sigh]"  The Spinach Song turns out to be an example of a whole sub-genre of Blues: There were dozens of  “Dirty Blues”, which typically performed live or heard on jukeboxes; they were mostly banned from radio (admittedly, for cause)... See more

THE GIFT OF THE VAGI: bad decisions make good stories

After a vigorous debate (over much wine) with some "Cabaret People" on the subject of what is “Traditional Cabaret”, I decided a traditional cabaret, at least most obviously, sets a deeply personal story alongside songs designed to illuminate the story.  Me being me, the story closest to my heart involves rubber vaginas, flummoxed bankers, irritated policemen and financial catastrophe. Mine is a tale of woe & naughty bits, with the songs of Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Cy Coleman, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Randy Newman, Bill Zeffiro & others.   see more