Zoot Sims and Oscar Peterson: How Long Has This Been Going On

The melody of “How Long Has This Been Going On” is one of those tunes that’s so fine and memorable it keeps replaying in our heads, with a marvelous associated feeling. This little gem of a track (2:11) begins with Joe Pass subtly setting the mood and harmonic structure with a rich chord presentation on his guitar, and then backing an exquisite, slow, soulful opening statement of the theme by Zoot on his tenor sax, with nicely creative variations, lingering meaningfully on key notes, and using rhythmic pauses to perfection. Sims continues the lovely, slow-jazzy rendering of the song with superb sax tone, slightly breathy, but well-used in the service of added feeling and texture, and with very nice vibrato endings to phrases.

Oscar Peterson plays basic piano support, unlike his sparkling piano intro and subsequent work on the superb companion track from this CD, “The Man I Love.” The bass and drum work by Mraz and Tate is very tasteful and wonderfully attuned to Zoot’s lead work and the support from Peterson and Pass. All of this produces one of the most beautiful and moving versions of this classic Gershwin tune on record.

April 16, 2009 · 0 comments


Teddi King: How Long Has This Been Going On?

"How Long Has This Been Going On" was recorded 4 weeks before Teddi King's death, yet despite her suffering from Lupus, her voice sounds young and strong. King's rhythmic variations are sublime, especially on the words "what a dunce I was before," where it sounds like she's shaking her head in disbelief. Dave McKenna's accompaniment sparkles as usual, and after King's death, he completed this tribute to Ira Gershwin with solo versions of the songs King was planning to record. Now reissued on CD, this is highly recommended.

July 21, 2008 · 1 comment


Ella Fitzgerald: How Long Has This Been Going On?

When Ella addressed the monumental Songbook series – part jazz lieder, part cocktail music – not only did she re-validate American popular songs for 1950s and '60s audiences brought up in the Swing Era; but she made her statements stick, enhancing her status as an artist beyond her wildest dreams. And in return, when she sang those songs, they re-validated her and remain her lasting achievement. Many consider the Gershwin collection to be the finest of the Songbook series, praising it for its scale, its ambition, or both. It went immediately onto the Billboard chart as soon as it was released, a major feat for a 5-LP set plus an EP. However, the enduring popularity of this set comes with a caveat, since Ella only had a passing acquaintance with the lesser known Gershwin material (such as “My Cousin in Milwaukee” or “Stiff Upper Lip”) until she walked into the studio. Such circumstances could only increase her emotional distance from the composer’s and lyricist’s intentions. Yet on numbers she did know, such as “How Long Has This Been Going On?” – a minor hit for Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman in the early 1940s – Ella comes close to virtually defining the Gershwin oeuvre.

February 19, 2008 · 0 comments


Brad Mehldau: How Long Has This Been Going On

I have written elsewhere how Brad Mehldau has updated the piano trio repertoire, refreshing the musty museum which passes for the standard jazz playlist. But Mehldau has never renounced Gershwin and his Tin Pan Alley associates -- he has just given them some new company, letting them hang out with Radiohead, Nick Drake and Paul Simon. And when Mehldau plays the brothers George & Ira in the year 2000, they come dressed in new millennium garb. This performance opens at an ambling ballad pace and Mehldau is sparing in his piano work. We think, at least for a moment, that the pianist is taking it sweet and easy. Have we returned to the open spaces and straightforward melody-solos-melody framework of Mehldau's earlier trio work? Nope! At the five-minute mark, bass and drums lay out, and Mehldau seems to be entering a brief piano coda to wrap up the piece. In fact, we are only halfway through this magnificent performance, with the best yet to come. Mehldau now offers a brilliant chord study -- not really a reharmonization of Gershwin's song, but something even more daring. Mehldau builds a new composition with occasional snippets of "How Long Has This Been Going On" bobbing and weaving above the surface, indicating the place where Gershwin's tune once floated. This interlude is fresh and interesting, without the slightest hint of banality or conventional jazz piano vocabulary. When Grenadier and Rossy return, more than four minutes later, their calming rubato gestures cap a remarkable performance.

December 30, 2007 · 0 comments


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