There were many reasons why this track shouldn't work. João Gilberto abandons Portuguese to sing in English. He switches from Jobim for a Gershwin song from 1927. And he buries his distinctive guitar work in the sometimes saccharine orchestral colorings of Mr. Claus Ogerman, a man who never saw a lingering major seventh chord he didn't like. The result should have been one more forgettable attempt to dilute Brazilian music for mass consumption by the chardonnay and brie set in the US. But someone forgot to tell Gilberto that he was supposed to imitate Carmen Miranda and ham it up for the Yanks. As a result, he leaves the antioxidant-enriched headgear behind, and sings this song with a delicacy and confessional honesty that are deeply touching. S'marvelous? You bet! But João, I'll tell it to you straight: your six strings are the only ones you need to bring to the next session.
Henry 'Red' Allen lets loose with a boisterous version of "S'Wonderful" that lives up to the exuberant proclamation of the song title. His accomplice Coleman Hawkins had dabbled in bebop during the preceding decade, but here returns to a premodern jazz setting -- a double helping of 1930s dancehall swing with a smidgen of New Orleans counterpoint thrown in for good measure. A sense of unbridled fun permeates the performance, and all the horn players are at top form. Cozy Cole's drumming is outstanding throughout, and he almost steals the show at the end.
"Swing you into bad health" is the ultimate jazz compliment. "Man, that drummer will swing you into bad health!" The reason bad health is prized above good health purportedly goes back to early 20th-century New Orleans, where admission to the St. James Infirmary gave a musician a leg up on gainful employment in the band that trailed the hearse bearing a patient whose Infirmary stay had ended unhappily. Anyhow, among 1950s vocalists nobody could swing you into bad health better (worse?) than Anita O'Day, ably assisted in her surgery by the eminent Doctors Gershwin and Consulting Professor Peterson.
I once thought that all the great bossa nova singers were from Brazil, but Krall has forced me to alter my opinion. Thirty years ago, João Gilberto recorded this same Gershwin standard
adapted to the bossa beat (also with a Claus Ogerman arrangement), but Krall's version can proudly stand alongside this esteemed predecessor. Yet Krall never stoops to imitate, and she makes this song her own. When they write the textbook on relaxed singing, this should be included on the companion CD.
November 18, 2007 · 1 comment
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