Monday, October 18, 2021

"I like your style" or These are a few of my favorite Jazz Waltzes

 So the real reason I wrote the last post, was to explain this one. Basically, while listening to my vinyl "find" $1.95 copy of Applause I turned to my husband and said, "you know what my favorite song in this score is right?" Which lead me to spend the rest of the evening collecting my favorite jazz waltz showtunes. I'm not convinced I can rank them effectively so I'm gonna have to go chronologically.  I'm no musicologist, I just love these songs. So here we go, the ultimate feel good list of songs that make you want to get up and do a waltz clog with the person you love.  

"Wait Till We're Sixty Five" from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965): First of all, this score is a winner. The story completely falls apart past the initial premise, woman with ESP falls in love with psychiatrist who falls in love with her past life. Alan Jay Lerner was a lot of things, including a fan of the clairvoyant, but it wasn't the stuff of a hit musical.  A hit song for Barbra and others sure, but not a permanent member of the cannon of classic musicals. I love A LOT of songs in this score (also Trude worked on the show as vocal arranger and musical continuity) so it actually took me till recently to see that this particular gem of a song fit perfectly into my jazz waltz obsession. Burton Lane wrote terrific melodies and this is certainly more of a charm song than anything else but this playful duet between Daisy (the one with ESP) and her fiancee-she's-no-longer-in-love-with Warren, gives a kick up your heals to embracing life's securities. The vocal selections give the tempo of the refrain as "in strong rhythm and vigorously" so it's not your average Rodgers waltz. With marvelously hilarious rhymes like "Safe from disaster/ No one haster take care of ma and pa./ All brown and rosy/ Living cozy down there in Tampa Fla." and "Life will be gala/ Every malady all completely paid. / And we've a plot a/ Terra cotta in which we'll both be laid" what's not to love. Oh Alan. But it's Lane's tuneful bounce that makes you want to skip all over the living room when you here it. Betty Walberg's excellent dance break with Robert Russel Bennett's orchestrations make a joyful boisterous carefree tune out of this completely practical subject matter. It could only have been made more hilarious by the wonderful straight man William Daniels (the way he hits the "v" the first time he says "sixty-five") and the comedic brilliance of Barbara Harris (the way she throws off "pa") I love them both soooooooooo much. Listen to it here

"One of a Kind" from Applause (1970). I talked some about Applause in my last post, but basically all my love for the 70's comes from this show (and the dance break of "The Music and the Mirror"). It's a 70s retelling of All About Eve with Lauren Bacall in the Bette Davis role. Music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, epic orchestrations by Philip Lang. This delightful duet (again) between Margo and Bill (Bacall and Len Cariou) is true love at its finest. They're a bit of an odd couple, there's tension between them throughout the play, but this is one of those perfectly honest and playful charm songs that just makes you smile from ear to ear. The score calls for the song to be played "moderately in 1" but I feel the 3 of the waltz so strongly. In fact of all the jazz waltzes on this list this is the one I'd call the waltziest. Maybe because it's such a deeply romantic sentiment masquerading as a charm song. Lyrics like "you always grind your teeth at night/ Your snoring is a real delight/ It's noisy but we sleep alright" is what the young people used to call "relationship goals" in my book. There is not a dance break here but you can feel the dance all the way through. I'm also a sucker for the harmony, something about Cariou taking the high notes while Bacall sings the melody in the basement just tickles me. But it's the drive of that "in 1" that moves the song along and makes it one of the most delightful numbers in the score. I love it so much.

"I Like Your Style" from Barnum (1980): Cy Coleman being the great jazz man he was gives this song the marking "jazz waltz" and it couldn't be more accurate. With lyrics by Michael Stewart and orchestrations by Hershey Kay this song is another love song in charm song clothing, heavy on the charm. Like "One of a Kind" this troubled couple is coming to grips with their differences (which are many) and do it in this super cutesy catching tune. It doesn't hurt that it's Jim Dale as Barnum who exudes charm in his very pronunciation. And lovely young charming and not-yet-recognized-for-her-maniacal-roles Glenn Close as Charity. The two of them together bring forth a warm understanding of working through a relationship in this chipper toe tapping driving waltz. It feels like a direct descendent of "One of Kind" but with a vocal complexity you couldn't give Lauren Bacall.  Oh and this dance break. Cy Coleman was an absolute master of his craft and this break is delightful (and are those spoons Hershey Kay? I think they are). I literally cannot sit still writing this right now. Ahhhhh I love it so much!!! It just makes me happy. What can I say? I dare you not to dance along listening to this.

Honorable mention goes to:

"She Likes Basketball" from Promises, Promises (1968): Another "moderately fast in 1" this song is once again, an endearing love song parading as a comic masterpiece. Not unlike the title number of She Loves Me, Chuck here is getting good news about a girl and letting the whole world know about it. Not a duet, but still extremely charming for multiple reasons including that it's a Burt Bacharach and Hal David song but the number one most important reason is: Jerry Orbach. I mean who doesn't love Jerry Orbach. And could he be anymore adorable? In his overcoat and his perpetually hunched shoulders. Few things in life make me happier than his run jump bit in this number (thank you Michael Bennett). Anyway, it's a cute song to listen to but if you want the full experience you'll want to watch him do it on the Tony's here: You're welcome.

So there you have it. Now you know exactly what kind of a sucker I am. The romantic-jazz-waltz-duet kind of sucker. 


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