Friday, February 22, 2013

Van Heusen Centenary / Babcock's Birthday

2013 marks the centenary of Jimmy Van Heusen (January 26, 1913 – February 6, 1990), whose songwriting genius produced scores of timeless classics for the Great American Popular and Jazz Songbooks. His longtime musical partnership with Frank Sinatra resulted in two Academy Awards and the signature Sinatra hits "Come Fly With Me", "My Kind of Town", and "Call Me Irresponsible." In all, Frank Sinatra recorded more than 70 songs by Jimmy Van Heusen (nĂ© Chester Babcock), more than by any other composer. Along with lyricist Johnny Burke, he also wrote the scores for most of the Bob Hope - Bing Crosby "Road" pictures. Six out of the seven to be exact.

And while singer Anita Gravine has recorded a far smaller number of Van Heusen songs  than Sinatra, still it's obvious she's a great admirer of the composer--- eleven renditions of his tunes over the course of two of her albums.

Anita Gravine. The world's greatest unheralded jazz singer? A merely great jazz vocalist? One hardly knows where to begin when writing about her. Part of the problem might arise from the fact she has recorded only---talk about a slim body of work!--- four (!) albums in the last 28 years. And while she still continues to perform and teach regularly in such foreign locales such as Italy and Germany (in the U.S.?. . .heaven forfend), her quartet of releases was accomplished between 1983 and 1999. If such things still exist, someone should give this woman a long-term record contract.

One of her four discs, Welcome to My Dream, is currently out-of-print. Let's hope it won't stay that way for much longer. It's a salute to the "Road" pics, and features a dazzling assemblage of players including, Gary Burton, George Mraz, and her brother, trombonist Mickey Gravine. It was also arranged, and co-produced (along with Gravine) by veteran jazz musician Mike Abene. Here's a sampling.



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