Arthur Schwartz, self taught on piano, was encouraged by Larry Hart and George Gershwin, to ease out of a career in law, follow his passion, and become one of the greatest "Broadway" composers - these days lesser known than Porter, Kern, Rodgers and Gershwin etal; well loved, nevertheless, by singers and jazz instrumentalist artists alike.
Schwartz created elegant song melodies in minor keys that also intimated sunlight and exuberance, and melodies in major keys that allowed more than a few rainclouds over head and reveries of loss.
William Zinsser (who wrote On Writing Well, a wonderful book extolling direct, uncluttered writing that I obviously had more fun reading than ingesting!) gets almost rhapsodic on Schwartz in his book Easy To Remember The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs:
"Nobody wrote melodies as sensuous as 'Alone Together' and 'You and the Night and the Music', with their rich minor-key coloring, or 'Dancing in the Dark' and 'I See Your Face Before Me'. They are grandly constructed songs, soaring at exactly the moment when they need to take flight and then returning to earth, all musical issues resolved."
Appropos of flight-taking, soaring, and returning (serenely) to earth - in this case to a horse drawn cab of Central Park - is this famous scene from The Bandwagon where Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse provide lyric flight to the orchestrated Dancing in the Dark"
Again, seductive shifts of major and minor move under the basic motif.
Schwartz' perfectly matched lyricist partner, Howard Dietz, sets the layered emotions of the song in the first lines:
Dancing in the dark Till the tune ends,
We're dancing in the dark and it soon ends,
We're waltzing in the wonder of why we're here,
Time hurries by, we're here and gone;
"Haunted Heart" is another gem from Schwartz. Closing my eyes to listen I climb up through mountain paths, through trees covered in mists that open out finally into a clearing looking west over the ocean where a woman gazes out, singing as the sun begins to set (whaddya mean, I'm living in a musical?); once again subtle shifts laid out by the chord changes. Here sung by the immaculate, subtle and warm Jo Stafford (that must be her singing to the setting sun) - someone said she was Lester Young's favorite singer and that says much considering how he felt about Billie Holiday. Many thanks to Elizabeth of
Relative Esoterica for introducing Jo to me via her informed and passionate litanies!
"You and the Night and the Music" has been a longtime favorite of jazz musicians. Here is a great hard-swinging jazz version of the song by Anita O'Day. I completely flip hearing Anita, in the song's final go-round, taking a complete downward dive off the melody path and climbing back up singing a walking bassline in the final verses. Utterly Anita-esque devil-may-care drop-dead swinging.
Bill Evans does another great version of this tune on "Interplay" with Freddie Hubbard, Jim Hall, and Percy Heath, capped off with the wonderful drive of Philly Joe Jones on drums.
There is one "kick" Philly Joe delivers on the head statement that I always anticipate with delight. One of those definitive moments in jazz history!
Last but not least I offer you guitarist Pat Martino's take on "Alone Together" from The Visit, re-issued as Footprints.
Martino gives a hint here of the formative influences of Johnny Smith, Wes Montgomery, but soon enough, hold on to your hats and hear a true original. He starts off the melody statement with a loping swing enhanced by Billy Higgins and Richard Davis and then the tsoulful, tentative descending line
in the pick-up break and he's off and running. With Martino, no matter what the speed here, every line is a pearl.
In his book Singers and the Song Gene Lees offers this reminiscence;
"One day I was descending from the ASCAP New York office in an elevator. A tall, dark-haired, and strikingly handsome man in - I later realized - his seventies struck up a conversation with me. We got on to the subject of songs, and as we left the building found we were both walking north. The conversation continued. The man was elegant, poised, vigorous, articulate, and spoke with a voice of such gorgeous baritone resonance that I can still hear it in my head.
Finally, as we waited for a stoplight to change, he asked my name and i told him. He put out his hand and said, "I'm Arthur Schwartz."