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Archive for April 1st, 2013

That Old Black Magic: Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck Cast a Spell on “Live 1962”

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Bennett Brubeck

What happens when two legends collide?

Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings will have the answer for you with the May 28 premiere release of Bennett and Brubeck – The White House Sessions: Live 1962 from Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck.  In the true spirit of jazz, the performance by these two titans on August 28, 1962 was largely unplanned.  Both men – Brubeck with his Quartet and Bennett with his Ralph Sharon-led ensemble – were appearing at the behest of President John F. Kennedy’s White House.  The occasion was an end-of-summer concert at Washington DC’s Sylvan Theatre to thank college-age interns who had served that summer in the nation’s capital.  Following solo sets, they agreed to a once-in-a-lifetime summit, included in full on this historic new release.

Disc jockey William B. Williams, of radio’s Make Believe Ballroom fame, first introduced Brubeck, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello and Paul Desmond for a four-song set that kicked off with “Take Five” from 1959’s seminal Time Out.  Brubeck was still riding the crest of the album’s success at the time of the Washington performance.  Tony Bennett could also be said to have been on top of the world.  Bennett’s now-signature song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” was capturing hearts here, there and everywhere as it first appeared on the Billboard charts a scant seventeen days prior to the performance.  Williams returned to introduce Bennett, accompanied by Ralph Sharon on piano, Hal Gaylord on bass and Billy Exner on drums.  “San Francisco” had already earned the coveted closing spot in Bennett’s six-song set, and many of the standards surveyed by Bennett are still songs he performs today.  The singer opened with three Jule Styne compositions from Broadway – “Just in Time” from Bells Are Ringing, “Small World” from Gypsy and “Make Someone Happy” from Do Re Mi, and also surveyed songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (“Rags to Riches”) and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer (“One for My Baby”).

After the jump: details on the Bennett/Brubeck summit including the full track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 1, 2013 at 15:27

In Memoriam: Phil Ramone (1934-2013)

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Phil Ramone 1Today, The Second Disc remembers Phil Ramone.

The multiple Grammy-winning producer, 79, died on Saturday, leaving behind a legacy of song from artists ranging from Barbra Streisand to Paul McCartney, Barry Manilow to The Band.  Yet unlike so many of his contemporaries, Phil Ramone didn’t have a signature style.  Instead of molding a band or singer to a preferred sonic specialty, he was a true architect of sound, tailoring each production to the individual artist.  Ramone was equally comfortable with pop, rock, jazz, R&B, and the worlds of Broadway and Hollywood, not to mention classical – the genre in which Ramone started his love affair with music, as a Juilliard-trained violin prodigy.

Phil Ramone modestly titled his 2007 memoir Making Records, because that’s precisely what he did, from the day he and partner Jack Arnold opened the doors of New York’s A&R Studios in 1959.  Prior to that, he had been mentored by Charles Leighton at JAC Recording.  At A&R, Ramone perfected the art of engineering.  He earned his first Grammy for Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s immortal Getz/Gilberto, and soon A&R was the preferred destination for producers Burt Bacharach and Hal David to craft their movies-in-miniature with Dionne Warwick.  Ramone’s eclectic C.V. as an engineer and later, producer, took in pop princesses (Lesley Gore), folkies (Peter, Paul and Mary), jazz legends (Tony Bennett), superstars (Barbra Streisand), Beatles (Paul McCartney), Geniuses (Ray Charles), and Chairmen (Frank Sinatra), as well as everyone in between.

Chicago, Phoebe Snow, Kenny Loggins, Carly Simon, B.J. Thomas, Liza Minnelli, Rod Stewart, and of course, Paul Simon and Billy Joel all logged studio time with Phil Ramone at the console.  With Simon, Ramone helmed such beloved albums as There Goes Rhymin’ Simon and Still Crazy After All These Years, still cornerstones of the singer-songwriter’s catalogue.  With Joel, Ramone embarked on a seven-album, nine-year partnership that remains one of the most successful in rock history.  The duo also hold a place in the history books, as Joel’s 52nd Street, produced by Ramone, became the first commercially released compact disc when it hit stores in Japan on October 1, 1982.

To every project, Ramone brought an understated, subtle touch of class that squarely put the emphasis on music and sound: making each musician and singer’s contribution heard, cleanly and resonantly.  Even a partial list of songs with Ramone’s involvement is staggering: “Times of Your Life,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “It Never Rains in Southern California,” “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star is Born),” “Loves Me Like a Rock,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Afternoon Delight,” “Poetry Man,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Maniac.”

Phil Ramone could have ushered in 2013 basking in the glow of acclaimed recent albums from Dionne Warwick and Tony Bennett, but he remained active.  At the time of his death, he was working on a variety of characteristically diverse projects with artists such as George Michael and Glee star Matthew Morrison.  Bette Midler eulogized him as “kind beyond words,” echoing the sentiments of so many others.  Ben Folds called him “brilliant, generous, talented,” while Tony Bennett noted his “wonderful sense of humor and deep love of music.”  To celebrate the career of the legendary Phil Ramone, Mike and I have each contributed a playlist of ten favorite projects on which he worked.  These aren’t necessarily his most significant, or his most famous, though some might indeed be.  Taken together, they simply represent twenty slices of the versatility, dynamism and sheer hallmark of quality that made Phil Ramone an in-demand talent, and sympathetic collaborator of so many, for over fifty years.

If there’s a rock-and-roll heaven, you know they’ve got one helluva band, true.  But now there’s one helluva producer sitting at the desk.

Hit the jump for two interactive Phil Ramone Top 10s! Read the rest of this entry »