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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Musical Interlude

(For politics, please scroll down)

Enjoy these images and the pop standard "Autumn Leaves" as performed by Pianist to the Presidents Roger Williams and orchestra, first recorded by Williams in 1955. "Autumn Leaves" stands as the greatest selling piano recording of all time, with more than 2 million sold.


The home page for Roger Williams.

About the above piece and pianist Roger Williams (1924-2011):
In 1955 Williams recorded "Autumn Leaves", the only piano instrumental to reach #1 on Billboard's popular music chart. It sold over two million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. It was the fourth #1 song of the "rock era," which unofficially began with the ascension of "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets into the top spot.  In 1966 he had another Top Ten hit with the song "Born Free" from the motion picture soundtrack. His other hits include "Near You", "Till", "The Impossible Dream", "Yellow Bird", "Maria", and "The Theme from Somewhere in Time". Billboard magazine ranks him as the top selling piano recording artist in history with 18 gold and platinum albums to his credit. Williams was known as the "Pianist to the Presidents", having played for nine US Presidential administrations, beginning with Harry S. Truman.  His last White House performance was in November 2008 for a luncheon hosted by First Lady Laura Bush.

On his 75th birthday, Williams performed his first 12-hour piano marathon. He performed the marathon at Steinway Hall in New York City and the Nixon, Carter and Reagan Presidential Libraries. His Steinway & Sons "Gold Steinway" grand piano was on tour for public display and entertainment during 2007–2008. In 2010, Roger Williams was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
Read the rest HERE.

Lyrics below the fold.
The falling leaves
Drift by the window
The autumn leaves
Of red and gold

I see your lips
The summer kisses
The sunburned hands
I used to hold

Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I'll hear
Old winter's song

But I miss you most of all
My darling
When autumn leaves
Start to fall

Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I'll hear
Old winter's song

But I miss you most of all
My darling
When autumn leaves
Start to fall

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the memories! How well I recall those LP's of his spinning along as well Montavani's on the record player. Saturday night of course it was Lawrence Welk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bunkerville,
      Glad that you like the memories which this particular piece evokes.

      And I remember those days to which you refer.

      Delete
  2. Never a fan.
    I can't believe he studied under a real task master like Lenny Tristano.

    The great Bill Evans trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motion does a masterful version of this jazz standard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Autumn Leaves began its life as a romantic ballad, Ducky. The famous Roger Williams version is certainly not Jazz .

      The term "Jazz" means giving any tune a specialized treatment with syncopated rhythms, complex chromatic harmonies often accompanied by string bass and percussion, though not always.

      It's possible to "jazz up" the Star Spangled Banner, Mary Had a Little Lamb, or Onward Christian Soldiers, –– or even Ave Maria ––, if the performer is so inclined.

      Hell! Somebody has created a Jazz version of Bach's Magnificat!!!

      (;-o

      I have no doubt that the Bill Evans treatment is wonderful, (I admire him too), but if we want to be accurate, Autumn Leaves in its orginal form is anything but "A Jazz Standard."

      Delete
    2. Duck,
      This one?

      I couldn't get the other format you suggested to play.

      BTW, I am a fan of Errol Garner. But sometimes the melody gets lost in all the improvisation. Sure, I can follow the melody because I already know the tune. But what about others who don't know the tune?

      BTW, Errol Garner fan here. Misty!

      Delete
    3. Yes, that's the number, AOW.

      I hear a real similarity in the two performances.
      Just curious that they were both released in '55.

      Delete
  3. A flashy arrangement distantly rooted in Rachmaninoff.

    First came Tchaikovsky, who had a decided influence on Rachmaninoff, whose Second Piano Cincerto was bastardized in the popular song Full Moon and Empty Arms, which shamelessly exploited the main theme of the final movement. This in turn in turn led to semi-classical composers like Richard Addinsell, eager to make a buck, who gave us the Warsaw Concerto. After that came florid piano arrangements such as Roger William's famous version of Autumn Leaves.

    It provides a revealing glimpse of respectable Middle-Class popular taste in the middle of the last century.

    The idea behind this sort of music was to give people who felt obliged to like classical music but didn't really a taste of the thrill received during the climactic passages in a great piano concerto in a few short moments without their havng to go through the tedium of spending a half hour or more listening to constrasting themes juxtaposed in complex developments –– sort of like having an instant orgasm without any foreplay.

    Now with Autumn Leaves, which may lack subtlety, but nevertheless has a genuinely expressive quality, I much prefer to listen to the vocal by Nat King Cole.

    https://youtu.be/eGM40vcAcJg

    Don't get me wrong. I get a kick out of hearing Roger Williams' glittering virtuosity as much as anyone –– I happily imitated it back in the days when I played background music in bars and restaurants, and loved getting the applause, BUT I never for a moment believed such carryings on had genuine musical significance.

    It has its place, beause people like it, God bless 'em. And that's all there is that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FT,
      I agree with you about the vocal.

      But this version by Roger Williams really does call up thoughts of falling and swirling leaves.

      Delete
    2. ...And a lost love, too -- lost to death: Old winter's song

      I didn't interpret the words this way until more recently.

      Delete
    3. You might be interested in Errol Garner's version on "Concert by the Sea".
      Since they both came out in 1955 it's interesting to ask who influenced whom.

      Delete
  4. Regardless of personal preferences, there must be a reason that "Autumn Leaves" stands as the greatest selling piano recording of all time, with more than 2 million sold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought I explained that pretty well, AOW. Williams' arrangement hits a "happy medium" between folk music and classical. It has elements of both, but is neither one nor the other. Call it a "Sweet Spot "matters of public taste.

      The average person rarely-if-ever appreciates or aspires towards greatness.

      Most find really good music a bit threatening, but they can't admit that, so they say it's "boring." A great symphony, concerto, string quartet, or a lieder recital is CHALLENGING.

      People don't want to be "challenged," they'd rather be indulged and placated. I'm sure you must be well aware of that from all your years of teaching.

      I don't dislike this famous piano version, –– I rather enjoy it in fact, –– but I recognize it for what it is, and so I can't pretend it's anything more. It's like an attractive piece of costume jewelry –– not unpleasant to see, but the discerning individual will not mistake it for genuine diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls.

      I've grown fond of the following quotation for what should be obvious reasons to those who know me:

      The GREAT are rarely FAMOUS; the FAMOUS are rarely GREAT.

      You may take that for whatever you think it may be worth.

      Delete
    2. I think he was outsold by Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert

      Delete
    3. FT,
      I'm sure that you explained well. But I'm crazy busy here: college recommendations, some with a November 1 deadline; getting the house ready for Minxy, who may arrive here as early as a week from now, as our vet says, "She's ready!"; picking up before the housecleaning service arrives; grading papers on a deadline because it's a writing contest; and on and on.

      Delete
    4. Back in the day, Roger Williams ("Born Free," I think) was the inspiration for many children to study piano.

      Of course, these aspiring pianists were mostly disappointed because soon enough it became clear that it takes years of study to play as well as Roger Williams.

      Delete

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