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MP3 Alexis Gershwin - Gershwin Sings Gershwin

Fresh, new arrangements of beloved Gershwin classics sung by niece of Ira & George.

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.

“I really feel my uncles’ music,” says Alexis, who is the daughter of Frances Gershwin, George & Ira’s younger sister. “I feel the music and I feel the meaning behind Ira’s lyrics in a way I don’t think anyone else really can because it’s in my genes. It’s in my blood.” Alexis feels the connection most strongly when she’s singing. “It’s almost spooky, because sometimes when I’m performing I feel George on one side and Ira on the other.”

Alexis has long wanted to record an album of her uncles’ music and to take it on the road to performing arts centers. “To do an entire show dedicated to my uncles’ music is something I’ve always dreamed of, but never felt ready to try,” 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 “Embraceable You” as a breezy bossa-nova. She interpolates a few bars of “The Man I Love” into “Someone To Watch Over Me.” She sings “Isn’t It A Pity” as a tender duet with her backup singer, Alistair Tober.

“No one’s ever done these songs the way we’re doing them,” she says. “The 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 uncles’ music. When I sing their music, I want to represent them in the way that they most deserve, with dignity and sincerity and feeling.”

Alexis also sought to show individuality and uniqueness in her vocal interpretations—no small feat for songs that have been recorded hundreds of times. She sings with ebullience and charm, combining a jazz singer’s penchant for idiosyncratic phrasing, an actress’ flair for the dramatic and a comedienne’s 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 “They All Laughed.” She adds witty patter to “’S Wonderful,” in which she puts Gershwin songs on a list of “’S Marvelous” 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 “Summertime.” Following George’s death, Ira collaborated with Jerome Kern on “Long Ago (And Far Away)” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Alexis didn’t know George Gershwin, who died of a brain tumor in 1937 at the tragically young age of 38. But she knew Ira well. “I used to go to his house every week for dinner,” she remembers fondly. “Groucho Marx would be there, and Karl Malden. Oscar Levant would come over and keep us in stitches.” 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 George’s birth, the brothers were awarded a special Pulitzer Prize.

Both of Alexis’ 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. “I have classical on my father’s side, which my brother Leopold is carrying on, and jazz from George & Ira, which I’m carrying on,” she explains. (Leopold is a concert pianist.)

When Alexis performs in concert, she tries to bring her audience away from the here and now. “I tell them, ‘I 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.’ People are hungry to get back to that.”

Alexis has another goal in mind: “I want to get this music to the young people. I want them to see that lyrics are poetry and music is melody.”

Alexis is also a fan of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Richard Rodgers, but she puts her uncles in a class by themselves. “There was only one George & Ira,” she says simply. “These words by Ira and that music fit together hand in glove. It was a miracle of miracles that this (collaboration) happened.”

And Alexis feels privileged to be carrying on the Gershwin legacy. “I’m extremely grateful to be a Gershwin,” she says. “I never take it for granted. I’m blessed to have talent myself—thank God—and I’m hoping I’m able to make the legacy continue and continue with what I’m doing.”

One of the highlights of Gershwin Sings Gershwin is the sublime “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” which was the brothers’ final collaboration. Ira’s lyrics celebrate the permanence of real love. The song long ago took on a second meaning—the timelessness of the Gershwins’ body of work. Now, thanks to Alexis’ loving salute to her uncles, it is taking on a third connotation—the enduring connectedness of family ties.--Paul Grein

Grein, who writes the weekly Chart Watch blog for https://www.tradebit.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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