Friday, January 16, 2009

Liza (piano duo)

Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea light a fire under Gershwin's LIZA. It's rare to hear a jazz performance that does not utilize drums in any way. An amazing performance!

Liza is the only surviving number of the 27 Gershwin items furnished for the hastily improvised musical, Show Girl. In mid-June 1929, Florenz Ziegfeld pressed a reluctant Gershwin to compose the score in a scant two weeks, to which Gershwin responded that he couldn't. "Mr. Ziegfeld smiled up at me and said, 'Why, sure you can -- just dig down in the trunk and pull out a couple of hits.'" The upshot was more a scrappy revue than a musical which, despite a run of 111 performances, aggravated critics and lost money. During the Boston tryout, Ruby Keeler, backed up by 100 leggy chorines, launched into Liza when Al Jolson, from the audience, rose and sang the chorus to his visibly startled bride. This electrifying effect was replicated for the New York première, and thereafter Liza became a virtual Jolson property. As Gershwin remarked, "It caused a sensation and gave the song a great start!" The lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Gus Kahn are pure fluff --

Liza, Liza, skies are gray, but if you'll smile on me,
All the clouds'll roll away...

-- but the surging, harmonically piquant music to which they are set is irresistible.

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