Irene Kral: Memphis In June


Memphis In June


Irene Kral (vocals) and Herb Pomeroy (trumpet, bandleader)


The Band & I (Capitol 69809)

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Irene Kral (vocals), Herb Pomeroy (trumpet, bandleader),

Lennie Johnson, Augie Ferretti, Nick Capezuto, Bill Berry (trumpets), Gene DiStasio, Joe Ciavardone, Bill Legan (trombones), Dave Chapman, Charlie Mariano, Varty Haroutunian, Joe Caruso, Jimmy Mosher (reeds), Ray Santisi (piano), John Neves (bass), Jimmy Zitano (drums)


Composed by Hoagy Carmichael & Paul Francis Webster. Arranged by Al Cohn


Recorded: New York, 1959


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

"Memphis In June" was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Francis Webster, but the lyric veers close to Johnny Mercer's territory. The words set a scene of pastoral southern America with cousin Amanda makin' a rhubarb pie and Grandma sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. In this recording, Irene Kral captures the exact mood of the song with a vocal tinged with sweet nostalgia and home-spun warmth. Al Cohn's arrangement offers excellent support for Kral. In fact, everything is going just fine until the band comes in for its interlude. Jimmy Zitano plays a dramatic roll and suddenly all of the trumpets are playing in the stratosphere. All that Kral and Cohn have done to set a mood are completely wiped out within 8 bars. And then the band stops and we go right back to the pastoral mood of the opening chorus.

It's hard to puzzle out just how that odd 8-bar passage got into the middle of this arrangement, but here's a theory or two: First, Kral and Pomeroy were not well-known at the time, so the record company may have commissioned Cohn to write an "anonymous" arrangement that could be sung and played by just about anyone. Whether Cohn actually wrote the trumpets in the high register is questionable; the trumpet section might have decided to take it up an octave at the session. However, the high trumpets and a key part of Kral's resumé offer a clue to the second theory: that Cohn wrote this arrangement for Kral during the nine months when she sang with Maynard Ferguson's band, and Kral brought the chart to the Pomeroy session. Neither theory is air-tight (the other band parts seem to support the high trumpets during the passage, and Maynard carried only 6 brass players with his band, not the 8 heard with Pomeroy), but the shame is that the passage just doesn't work and it ruins the entire track. Irene Kral didn't record many albums (especially with big bands), so it's too bad that a momentary lapse in taste marred this otherwise exemplary recording.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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