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George Gershwin’s Songbook for piano (with sheet music)
When researching George Gershwin’s musical style, one tends to find the words “jazz, blues and ragtime”. Authors very often use these words when describing the main influences on Gershwin’s music. These influences are of course much more present in his songs and compositions destined for Broadway musicals than in his classical compositions. However even in the classical works one can still find some of the jazz influence.
All of the “Songbook” tracks on this album tended to illicit the same thoughts from this reviewer; missing the jazz/blues feel and the left-hand swing, blues progressions don’t sound like the blues, not the way someone brought up listening to the blues would play it. This may reflect the pianist’s intent, but it’s difficult to imagine that it was Gershwin’s intent.
Track 06, Oh Lady be Good, totally misses the mark. It doesn’t sound like Gershwin’s music! Since its creation for the 1924 musical Lady, Be Good! the song has been recorded multiple times by artists including Fred Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald and Dianne Reeves. Because of its multiple reproductions it entered the popular music genre. ‘Oh Lady, Be Good!’ is sang in the 1941 eponymous film, yet the film and musical are unrelated in plot, characters and cast. The vocals on ‘Oh Lady, Be Good’ are accompanied with only a piano, making a clean and simple sound.
On Sweet and Low Gershwin plays with a swinging left hand; a short left-hand run leaves the image of Fred Astaire skipping down some stairs.
George Gershwin is recognised as one of the most influential American composers of the twentieth century. He made his legacy arranging music for Broadway, film and orchestra. In his early teenage years, he began working as a pianist in New York nightclubs and rehearsal pianist in Broadway rehearsals; it was here that he was scouted to work on Broadway. His musical style blends classical, jazz and blues influences, which was inspired by listening to a broad range of genres in school and in penny arcades.
Gershwin worked with his brother, Ira, for many of his musicals and films. Together, the brothers wrote famous songs, featured in many Broadway musicals and old Hollywood films, including Lady Be Good, An American in Paris and Funny Face.
George Gershwin continued working until he died from a brain tumour aged 38. After his death in 1937, his brother and colleague, Ira, allowed the publication of some of Gershwin’s finished but unpublished works, including ‘Lullaby’.
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