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"Gershwin Cabaret" With Dick Hyman This Week On Riverwalk Jazz

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Jim Cullum Jr.
George Gershwin’s bold and innovative compositions embraced high and low culture—and just about everything in between. Gershwin enjoyed giving parties in the living room of his Manhattan penthouse, sitting at the piano entertaining his friends. With a nod to that intimate setting, jazz piano master Dick Hyman joins host David Holt in the studio with “A Gershwin Cabaret for the Holidays." Hyman talks about Gershwin’s music, demonstrates musical examples at the piano, presents favorite performances with The Jim Cullum Jr. Jazz Band—and offers new studio performances.

The program is distributed in the US by Public Radio International, on Sirius/XM satellite radio and can be streamed on-demand from the Riverwalk Jazz website.

To this day, two of Gershwin’s Broadway show tunes are familiar vehicles for jazz musicians and their endless improvisations. “Oh, Lady Be Good” was introduced as the title tune of a 1924 stage musical starring the dance team sensation, Fred and Adele Astaire. It has since become one of the all-time, most often-played jazz standards. Dick Hyman and the Band pay tribute to a particularly vivid recorded performance from 1953 by Teddy Wilson and Buddy Rich. As a university student, Dick had a special connection with Wilson, one of his piano teachers and mentors.

Another Gershwin composition highly popular as a jazz vehicle, “I Got Rhythm,” debuted in a 1930 Broadway musical, Girl Crazy. The chord changes of “I Got Rhythm” are so commonly used in jazz that musicians just call them “rhythm changes.” These changes form the basis of countless jazz standards, such as Duke Ellington’s “Cotton Tail” and Charlie Parker’s “Anthropology.” Dick Hyman says, “In jazz, there’s a saying that either you’re playing the blues or you’re playing “I Got Rhythm." Next to the blues, it’s just about the most common jazz form.”

Gershwin began composing his Piano Preludes in 1925. Even though he envisioned them for classical performance, “Prelude #2" with its 12-bar blues form lends itself particularly well to our jazz treatment, arranged by John Sheridan for two pianos with Mr. Hyman.

The crown jewel of George Gershwin’s creative output was his “folk opera” Porgy and Bess. It was half a century ahead of its time—years in the making, and when it finally debuted, it quickly closed. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band performs “Oh, Lord I’m On My Way” and “A Woman is a Sometime Thing.” Dick Hyman presents a new in-studio, solo performance of “Summertime,” for which he created two spectacular improvisations.

Talking about The Jim Cullum Jazz Band’s CBS Masterworks 1987 CD release of Porgy and Bess—now out of print—Dick Hyman says, “I’ve always wished I could have been on that session.” To close out the broadcast, Dick adds his track to one of the tunes on the CD, “Somebody Knockin’ at De Do'.’”

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