Sunday, September 21, 2014

Heartaches and Slovenia

I could make up an elaborate story of how I woke up this morning with Ted Weem's version of "Heart Aches" on my mind. But I think the "earworm" must take Sundays off because I didn't. In fact, most unusual, I got nothing except an extreme craving for several cups of black coffee.

 Al Hoffman
And so I go with a song and arrangement of a tune that is one of the catchiest, swinging-est, ditties I have ever heard. Also, I have a chance to review a recent cd given to me one afternoon several weeks back while I was shmoozing with David Colburn (owner and possessor of a plethora of stringed instruments) and Ben Lamper, a sweet guy and a heck of a guitar mechanic (and player).

The tune first.

"Heartaches" was first published in 1931 music by Al Hoffman and lyrics by John Klenner. Hoffman was born in Minsk, Russia in 1902 (there's that Russian connection from yesterdays blog again!) with lyrics by John Klenner. It's should be noted here that Hoffman was a veritable stew pot of melodys, giving us such numbers as "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Bo" (with Jerry Livingston and from Disneys ubiquitous "Cinderella") and the same bubbling wordy "Mairzy Doats" which in the 1940's became such a popular song that The New York Times and Newsweek commented on its success .

There were other, very pretty songs that fell from his pen such as "Allegheny Moon", "I  Apologize" (Billy Ekstein),  "Fit As A Fiddle" (remember Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor soft-shoeing across the stage with duel fiddles in "Singing in the Rain."?) "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heat Makes", ("Cinderella" again with Livingston for Disney) and so many more.  "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd a Baked a Cake."? Yep. That one also.

But the Ted Weems Orchestra cut the first recording in 1933 for Bluebird Records using everything in the bands arrangement book to sell this song with its infectious latin beat and shuffling rhythm. First, there is a guitar inspired opening doo-wacka-do followed by trumpets in time and reeds happily skipping after in the next line. Then comes what I think is a washboard and finally, the piece that really sells this song for me, whistling by Elmo Tanner.

Tanner, billed as the "Whistling Toubador" used his throat muscles, much like Bing Crosby, when he  warbled and it is just the bees knees!

Elmo himself!
But the song really never went anywhere until about fourteen years later when a disc jockey by the name of Kert Webster from 50,000 watt clear channel WBT in Charlotte NC began featuring it on a show at night called "Midnight Dancing Party".

It soon was being requested all across the country and Weems, who had dissolved the band in 1942 when the boys went off to fight and Pitrello had just about killed the recording industry, regrouped for a few years to take advantage of his new found fame.

This song is one of the happiest tunes I can think of and when it's playing, I just can't go to sleep.

Now the cd.

Listening to "Guitar Tales", an all guitar instrumental cd by Slovenian/American musician Sasho Zver made me want to do two things I always feel like doing after I listen to a guitarist who possesses consummate skill and joy like Sasho. Either bust my own guitar ala Peter Townshend (The Who) into a million pieces or apply to Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Which, oddly enough, is where Sasho graduated a few years back.

He has performed all over the world for many years in places like the UK, Germany and Austria, Belgium, Italy etc. beginning when he was nine and continuing non-stop since.

I had a chance to meet him briefly and was charmed by his honesty and humbleness and my admiration increased when I listened to this cd.

The first cut, "Heat In Nashville" pays homage to that place where (as John Sebastian sang) those "Nashville Cats" gather. It's pretty and follows the finger-pick styling of Chet Atkins.

Incidentally, Sasho traveled in 2007 to Nashville to perform at the "Chet Atkins Appreciation Society" convention.  That is a heavy thing to add to your biography!
Sasho Zver and guitar..... kneeling.

"Come on Foot" and "Mark's Suite" follows in a solid manner with "Eternity" floating ethereally above my computer. "Mojca" is endearing and lovely as is "More Love" (any royalties from this composition will go to "Raising the Blues" a non-profit dedicated to bring music to children undergoing medical treatment, therapy, and children with emotional, physical and educational disabilities. Go on line to find out more about this.)

"Highland Aire" brings forth the tang of heather in the glenns with its Celtic probing. All the songs feel right and are cleanly brought to life by this master musician along with some help by friend Peter Huttlinger.

My favorite? "Play that Rag". I've always been a sucker for ragtime!

Thumbs way up for this cd. "Guitar Tales" by guitarist Sasho Zver!

More tomorrow!

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