MP3 Alexis Gershwin - Gershwin Sings Gershwin
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12 MP3 Songs in this album (42:18) !
Related styles: EASY LISTENING: Love Songs, EASY LISTENING: American Popular Song
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Alexis Gershwin Gershwin Sings Gershwin
The incomparable music of George & Ira Gershwin has been recorded by many of the greatest singers who ever lived. But Alexis Gershwin still manages to bring something new to the songs on her new album, Gershwin Sings Gershwin.
âI really feel my unclesâ music,â says Alexis, who is the daughter of Frances Gershwin, George & Iraâs younger sister. âI feel the music and I feel the meaning behind Iraâs lyrics in a way I donât think anyone else really can because itâs in my genes. Itâs in my blood.â Alexis feels the connection most strongly when sheâs singing. âItâs almost spooky, because sometimes when Iâm performing I feel George on one side and Ira on the other.â
Alexis has long wanted to record an album of her unclesâ music and to take it on the road to performing arts centers. âTo do an entire show dedicated to my unclesâ music is something Iâve always dreamed of, but never felt ready to try,â she says. For one thing, she was focused on raising her two sons, Christopher and Brian. With them grown and on their own, the timing was finally right.
Alexis and her musical director, Steven Applegate, made a point of finding fresh approaches and arrangements to the songs. She performs âEmbraceable Youâ as a breezy bossa-nova. She interpolates a few bars of âThe Man I Loveâ into âSomeone To Watch Over Me.â She sings âIsnât It A Pityâ as a tender duet with her backup singer, Alistair Tober.
âNo oneâs ever done these songs the way weâre doing them,â she says. âThe songs are contemporized without taking away from the magnetism of what makes them what they are. I have never strayed from the core or the soul of my unclesâ music. When I sing their music, I want to represent them in the way that they most deserve, with dignity and sincerity and feeling.â
Alexis also sought to show individuality and uniqueness in her vocal interpretationsâno small feat for songs that have been recorded hundreds of times. She sings with ebullience and charm, combining a jazz singerâs penchant for idiosyncratic phrasing, an actressâ flair for the dramatic and a comedienneâs comic sensibility.
While Gershwin Sings Gershwin includes a wide range of moods and styles, the uptempo, jazzy tunes are particular treats. Alexis and her backup singers capture the high spirits and sheen of The Manhattan Transfer on a giddy rendition of âThey All Laughed.â She adds witty patter to ââS Wonderful,â in which she puts Gershwin songs on a list of ââS Marvelousâ things (along with caviar, Chivas Regal scotch and a Rolex watch).
Most of the songs on the album are George & Ira collaborations, but Alexis also included a few songs that the brothers wrote with other partners. George teamed with DuBose Heyward to write the landmark folk opera Porgy And Bess, which spawned âSummertime.â Following Georgeâs death, Ira collaborated with Jerome Kern on âLong Ago (And Far Away)â which was nominated for an Academy Award.
Alexis didnât know George Gershwin, who died of a brain tumor in 1937 at the tragically young age of 38. But she knew Ira well. âI used to go to his house every week for dinner,â she remembers fondly. âGroucho Marx would be there, and Karl Malden. Oscar Levant would come over and keep us in stitches.â Ira died at his Beverly Hills home in 1983, at age 86.
In 1985, George & Ira were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their contributions to the American spirit. At the Grammy Awards in 1986, the brothers were presented with a posthumous Trustees Award. In 1998, on the centennial of Georgeâs birth, the brothers were awarded a special Pulitzer Prize.
Both of Alexisâ parents also had artistic talent. Her mother, Frances, was a jazz dancer and painter. Her father, Leopold Godowsky Jr., played viola, often participating in chamber music ensembles at their home. âI have classical on my fatherâs side, which my brother Leopold is carrying on, and jazz from George & Ira, which Iâm carrying on,â she explains. (Leopold is a concert pianist.)
When Alexis performs in concert, she tries to bring her audience away from the here and now. âI tell them, âI want to take you on a musical journey back to a time when the world was a little slower, a little more gentle, a little more innocent.â People are hungry to get back to that.â
Alexis has another goal in mind: âI want to get this music to the young people. I want them to see that lyrics are poetry and music is melody.â
Alexis is also a fan of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Richard Rodgers, but she puts her uncles in a class by themselves. âThere was only one George & Ira,â she says simply. âThese words by Ira and that music fit together hand in glove. It was a miracle of miracles that this (collaboration) happened.â
And Alexis feels privileged to be carrying on the Gershwin legacy. âIâm extremely grateful to be a Gershwin,â she says. âI never take it for granted. Iâm blessed to have talent myselfâthank Godâand Iâm hoping Iâm able to make the legacy continue and continue with what Iâm doing.â
One of the highlights of Gershwin Sings Gershwin is the sublime âOur Love Is Here To Stay,â which was the brothersâ final collaboration. Iraâs lyrics celebrate the permanence of real love. The song long ago took on a second meaningâthe timelessness of the Gershwinsâ body of work. Now, thanks to Alexisâ loving salute to her uncles, it is taking on a third connotationâthe enduring connectedness of family ties.--Paul Grein
Grein, who writes the weekly Chart Watch blog for Yahoo.com, is a former editor for Billboard magazine. He has written liner notes for dozens of albums by such artists as Petula Clark, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Melissa Manchester and Olivia Newton-John.
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