GERSHWIN: NO SAD SONGS
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 8:30
Thursday, August 30, 2012 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 30, 2012 8:30 p.m.
Continuing our anniversary series, the Token Creek jazz club joins in the worldwide commemoration of George Gershwin’s 75th (1898-1937) in a program offering some of his least explored, most unusual, and most beautiful songs, as well as music of composers who influenced him and whom he influenced. Vocalist Ricky Richardson joins the festival house band in his first Token Creek appearance.
Ricky Richardson, vocals
Tom Artin, trombone
Rose Mary Harbison, violin
John Harbison, piano
John Schaffer, bass
Todd Steward, drums
Token Creek Festival 2012
Gershwin: No Sad Songs
In most cases the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of an artist, even a very important one, would not be widely marked - we would wait for 100 and we would consider celebrating others with rounder numbers. But the urge to re-experience and perpetuate George Gershwin is great: attention to this occasion has begun early, will probably run late, and is global and thorough. Every scrap has been found, every corner searched, and it is easy to understand why. The music rewards this curiosity. Gershwin’s gift was so lively and immediate, his standard so high, his temperament so infectiously positive that we won’t want the year to end.
At Token Creek we have been looking at every song we can find, and marveling at the trove of wonderful pieces we didn’t know, as inventive as the ones we did. Encountering tunes like “I Was Doing Alright,” “Ask Me Again,” “Changing My Tune,” and “’Til Then” we might ask “Where have you been all my life?!”
Gershwin didn’t initiate the great outpouring of popular song brilliance that pervades the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. He joined an enterprise already thriving through the incomparable work of his two early idols Kern and Berlin. His songs are seldom formally inventive, their subject matter (thanks also to brother Ira) is relentlessly upbeat, their manner mostly declarative, assertive. Their uniqueness stems from the incredible naturalness of the melodies, the very refined and personal harmonic vocabulary, and the uncanny memorability these qualities produce.
Gershwin was a perpetual entertainer, in a charming and also overbearing way, an irrepressible performer, a generous colleague, and a touchingly dedicated perpetual learner (both Ravel and Boulanger turned away his pleas to study with them, fearing they might, with him, be inhibitors). He is one of those creative personalities so gregarious, so available, that it seems impossible to figure out how he managed a steady flow of projects big and small, at such a high degree of polish.
We propose to present Gershwin’s songs in a real survey, including precursors, colleagues he encouraged, and a generous group of fine songs, many less known (‘though after this big global year they will probably become familiar). This will require a different jazz format than in previous years, more like the old 78 RPM side, with tighter solo space and often including the seldom-heard verses which were composed to precede the songs in their original theatre context. In this we will be greatly assisted by the exceptional young singer Ricky Richardson who has spent the season immersed in the songs of Gershwin, in excitingly compact versions like the ones described here.
Of the many great songwriters of his era, Gershwin had the most complete commitment to the absorption of real jazz feeling into his art.
— John Harbison, summer 2012