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Posts Tagged ‘Cole Porter’

I was delighted when Will McMillan asked me to review his Blame Those Gershwins CD, with music composed by Steve Sweeting, who also is on piano.

I think the first time I became aware of singer McMillan was in a production of the musical Tortoise, in which he played a sweet, low-key guy unimpressed by the hectic modern world. But I may have seen him in television ads when he was a little boy. He’s been performing that long.

I’ve listened to this CD several times now, and I’m really loving it. The title song playfully borrows themes from the greats — the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and more. It tells the story of a fan who finds more comfort in the American Songbook than in the unreliable world of romance (but who is also able to poke fun at himself).

I ought to think twice;/Should I really be relying on Kurt Weill for advice?/Life doesn’t rhyme like lyrical knowledge/You get from Rodger and Hartenstein College.

The lyrics for that song are written by Sweeting, who wrote the words for several of the other songs. The joyful “Bounce to the Wave,” with words by Betina Hershey, had me thinking of swing dancing but may suggest other bouncy activities to you, including children jumping on a new mattress. One tune was created for a lovely ee cummings poem that I wish we had known about when Suzanne and Erik got married. The cummings poem we chose was more obscure. In fact, I told the congregation, “We don’t know what it means, but we like the way it sounds.” (“Not even the rain has such small hands.)

McMillan wrote the lyrics to several songs, including “Stuff,”  in which he ponders his good fortune in experiencing the beauty and peace of nature and compares those wonders to other “stuff” we collect in our getting and spending world. He asks, “What have I done in some other life, to be blessed with this stuff,” reminding me of an uncharacteristically plaintive Elaine Stritch singing “somewhere in my youth and childhood/I must have done something good.”

Sweeting’s gentle, wistful persona in “Wait” is self-critical for hoping that something wonderful will happen without action on his part — and for being so resigned. “I sit and watch a year or ten just slip away/I let life come to me,/If it doesn’t,/Say it wasn’t meant to be.”

I really loved each song for its different strengths: the carefree “Let’s Go to the River,” the hopeful “What Am I Doing Alone,” the wise and accepting “Let It All Go,” in which Sweeting suggests that if a poem fails to flow and a friend fails to know when you need a friend, “Maybe the answer/is to love a poem and to write a friend.”

This is music for the thinking music lover. It is thoughtful without being cerebral. It doesn’t talk down to the listener. The questioning, patient vibe suggests a tentativeness that is a kind of strength, a self-knowledge that is OK with not having all the answers and an openness to receiving the joy that is offered. Amazon has the CD. And iTunes. It’s going to be my companion in the car at least until I have all the lyrics memorized.

Oh, and kudos to Doug Hammer, McMillan’s longtime piano collaborator, for the recording and mixing on this one.

McMillan and Sweeting’s launch party is October 2 in Somerville, Mass. Call 617 628 0916. Or check Brown Paper Tickets online.

Will McMillan and Steve Sweeting, the guys behind the jazzy, bluesy CD Blame Those Gershwins

Will McMillan & Steve SweetingA

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Did you enjoy Will’s post on flying, the entry that I just reblogged? You might like to follow him, too.  He often embeds music in his entries.

I think I first became aware of Will’s “musical life on planet earth” when he took the role of the Tortoise in Jeff Flaster’s charming little musical Tortoise, about taking your time to enjoy life. Since then my husband and I have been to many of Will’s cabaret performances in the greater Boston area (often with the inimitable Doug Hammer on the piano).

In fact, you could catch them this coming weekend. He writes, “Doug and I have been happily rehearsing for our upcoming performances on Friday and Saturday, October 17 or 18, at Third Life Studio in Union Square, Somerville — supported in part by a recent grant from the Bob Jolly Charitable Trust.

” ‘Songs About Parents & Children’ will feature two sets of songs — divided by an intermission with lots of refreshments from Trader Joe’s — and will include music by Joni Mitchell, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerry Herman, Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields, Stevie Wonder, Jones & Schmidt, Cole Porter, Maltby & Shire, Weill & Brecht, as well as a couple of originals. …

“There is free parking in a nearby bank’s lot. Third Life Studio is also accessible via the 85, 86, 87, 91 and CT2 bus lines (click here for more details).

“You can click here to buy tickets for Friday, 10/17/14. Or you can click here to buy tickets for Saturday, 10/18/14.”

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